The Spotter

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 back over 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. Spotters shall be trained on their assigned responsibilities, understand basic operating procedures of equipment they are spotting for, hazards of the equipment and working environment, and lower controls and overriding capability of the upper controls of aerial work platforms.

Spotter Responsibilities

  • Ensure that spotters and drivers agree on hand signals before backing up.
  • Instruct spotters to always maintain visual contact with the driver while the vehicle is backing.
  • Instruct drivers to stop backing immediately if they lose sight of the spotter.
  • Not give spotters additional duties while they are acting as spotters.
  • Instruct spotters not to use personal mobile phones, personal headphones, or other items which could pose a distraction during spotting activities.
  • Provide spotters with high-visibility clothing, especially during night operations.
  • According to OSHA the spotter should be positioned to have a clear view of the areas the operator cannot see and to not be in harm’s way. Usually behind the equipment or vehicle in view of the driver.
  • The spotter shall allow for sufficient stopping distance and clearance.
  • The spotter must always be visible to the operator. If you can’t see the operator, the operator can’t see you.
  • If the spotter must pass through the operator’s blind spot, make sure the operator understands your actions.
  • The spotter shall stay focused and avoid distractions.
  • The spotter shall make eye contact with the operator before communicating signals.
  • The spotter shall conduct frequent hazard assessment of area for potential hazards and notify the operator if hazards are discovered. Hazards that should be monitored for include, but are not limited to: Drop offs or holes, bumps and floor obstruction, debris, overhead obstructions and high voltage conductors, hazardous locations, inadequate or inappropriate surfaces and support to withstand all load forces imposed by equipment, presence of unauthorized person, poorly lit areas, slippery surfaces or spills.

Driver Responsibilities

  • Turn off the radio and roll down windows to maintain good communication with the spotter.
  • Know where all the blind spots are located.
  • Maintain a safe and consistent operating speed.
  • Maintain eye contact with the spotter until the spotter has completed instructions and moved from the line of travel.
  • If sight of the spotter is lost, stop the vehicle immediately.

Spotting Signals