Spotter Safety at Work

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Spotter Safety Talk

While spotting for heavy equipment operators may not seem like a dangerous task, it certainly is. Every year back-over incidents between equipment and spotters result in fatalities. OSHA states that dump trucks, followed by semi-trucks and ordinary pickups, are responsible for the majority of backover incidents in the past 10 years on the job.

Spotting for equipment has been proven to be an effective safeguard for preventing incidents between pedestrians and the equipment as well as preventing property loss incidents, but safe work practices need to be established to protect spotters as well.

Basic Safe Work Practices for Spotting

  • Never walk behind the equipment and spot at the same time. When spotting, stand at the desired area where the equipment is going and flag the equipment back to you.
  • Agree on hand signals prior to any spotting activities with equipment operators.
  • As the operator, stop anytime you lose sight of the spotter.
  • Review the work area for any additional hazards, such as trip hazards that a spotter or other ground personnel could trip over. Or evaluate the work area for fixed objects that the equipment can strike. Remove any people, objects, or equipment prior to spotting equipment in or out of an area to eliminate the possibility of a strike.

spotter safety at workOther Tips for Spotting 

When planning work, look at the task and determine if there is a way to eliminate backing or minimize it. If there are trucks in the work area that need to dump material, look to be able to pull through where they need to dump. If pulling through is not possible, pick a route that minimizes the need to back up.

Oftentimes, personnel who are spotting for equipment may not have ever operated that specific piece or model of equipment. Work with operators to discuss and review the blind spots of the equipment onsite. Some of the large off-road dump trucks have more than a 60-foot blind spot in the rear. If the spotter or other personnel in the work area are not aware of the blind spots of the equipment, they may unknowingly walk into the line of fire.

Discussion points:

  1. Is there a task where we can eliminate the need for a spotter?
  2. What are some other safe work practices we can use when spotting or operating around a spotter?

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2 thoughts on “Spotter Safety at Work”

  1. Hi Jeremy,
    Great website with very interesting & useful resources. Well done and thank you, I’m very glad I’ve found your website.
    I’ve been a professionally qualified safety adviser in Australia for some years and in semi-retirement also been a part-time post grad student for the last 4 years & got 11/12th through a Masters in the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR), which I hope to finish by the end of this year.
    With your safety qualifications you may be interested in doing some (or possibly all) of the on-line courses I have been doing face-to-face with some of the top safety/risk managers from around the World, who work for some of the largest & most hazardous businesses.
    Living in Sydney, Australia I am very lucky to have been able to do most of my recent studies face-to-face with the authors of the course, but our inspirational mentors & teachers do travel the World to teach the workers of organisations interested in in-house courses about truly effective risk management.

    Anyway, have a look at their website and think about getting involved. Personally, after years of working in the safety industry I have found it to be a fascinating and humbling experience to discover how little I actually knew about the importance of human fallibility in dealing with risk.

    Please keep in touch with me, you’re doing a very good job!


    Chris Howell

  2. Im looking for spotter training or forms for Chemical off loading of trailers or rail cars.

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