Can training reverse a backwards attitude to the vehicle banksman?

Can training reverse a backwards attitude to the vehicle banksman?

Managing Director | RTITB

Recent news articles have been awash with workplace accidents caused by reversing vehicles, and if you look at the facts, nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work happen when a vehicle is reversing. This makes the job of a vehicle banksman, also known as a signaller or reversing assistant, a matter of life and death.
 
Proper training is about far more than turning up and getting a certificate. While transport businesses are increasingly insisting on training which changes behaviour for the better and includes assessment to confirm an employee’s true abilities, when it comes to banksman training, too many businesses are still failing to deliver.
 
Partly, this is because of the common misconception that a vehicle banksman’s role is “just helping a driver reverse” and “something anyone can do, so you don’t need training”. These misguided statements indicate an attitude to banksman training that regrettably causes many hundreds of people to be seriously injured by reversing vehicles each year.  
 
Common risks
Vehicle impacts with pedestrians, other vehicles and infrastructure are surprisingly common throughout transport and logistics businesses. The risks from both rigid and articulated vehicles are clear, but somehow are often overlooked even when Safe Systems of Work (SSOW) and Safe Operating Procedures (SOP) are in place.
 
And it’s not just reversing at speed that presents a high risk, consider the force of an HGV hitting a solid building at just 1mph and the significant damage that could occur, not to mention injury to nearby pedestrians, or the driver.
 
Despite the implementation of SSOW and SOP, accidents may happen when vehicles are reversing for several common reasons. For instance, poor management and supervision (or an entire lack of it), inferior decision making, time pressures, peer pressure, unplanned occurrences and lapses in attention all play a part. However, pure ignorance is also a frequent cause of incidents and may be a result of employees not having received the correct training.
 
The correct training for a banksman can be used to help overcome these issues and reduces these risks by empowering them with the knowledge and skills to manage a reversing vehicle
safely. 
 
Recognising hazards
Banksman should be trained to recognise hazards around the site that might make an area unsuitable for manoeuvring/reversing. It should provide a good awareness of the hazards they need to be aware of for their own safety, as well as a general working knowledge of the site day to day. However, as things change all the time on a site, training should also provide the skills to assess temporary situations. It is important that the banksman learns to look with ‘fresh eyes’ and can derive the best ways to introduce the driver to the route and the eventual parking location.
 
Before any manoeuvre commences, the banksman (and driver) need to be able to identify if the route is suitable and safe, considering pedestrian hazards such as walkways or doors, the necessary PPE and whether the driver and banksman are working to the same rules.
 
Signals provide essential communication
Plus, as rigid and articulated vehicles can give drivers a distorted view they rely on their mirrors, so the banksman must ensure that this is where they are visible to the driver. The banksman should be able to methodically introduce the signals to be used and the safety policy to a driver, even if language is a problem. The banksman should also tell the driver the safety and site rules associated with the manoeuvre, such as their position (different for left or right-hand drive vehicles), an out of sight policy, what should happen when other people enter the manoeuvring area and a key policy.
 
Where reversing and close manoeuvring is required, vehicles and pedestrians must understandably be kept apart. Ideally, the area would be well lit, and drivers and pedestrians will be able to see clearly.  However, this is not often the reality – just one simple example of why a professionally trained banksman is so important.
Banksmen should also be aware of basic safe driving principles, so they are in a strong position to report a driver who they feel is putting others at risk. The correct training will ensure a banksman has experienced the driver’s view from the cab, using the mirrors.
 
Public spaces carry extra risks
Reversing is not always carried out within the controlled confines of transport depots, and commercial goods vehicle drivers often conduct difficult manoeuvres in public spaces. Roadside shop deliveries, home delivery networks, builders' merchant delivery vehicles, refuse collection teams and drinks delivery crews for example carry significant risks. Due to more confined areas for manoeuvring, unsegregated pedestrian areas, vehicles driven by non-professionals, vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists) and even children. On these occasions, a banksman plays a critical role in keeping manoeuvres safe.
 
So, what is a properly trained banksman?
A banksman is the eyes and ears of the driver they are directing so they must possess excellent communication skills, alongside a calm and reassuring presence in an otherwise busy environment. They also must understand accepted methods of signalling and verbal communications, as well as knowledge of steps to take in the event of miscommunication. They not only provide guidance to the professional driver but also keep pedestrians, and other vulnerable parties, away from the moving vehicle.
 
Finally, this is a dangerous role, so an appreciation of their own personal safety is also essential for a correctly trained banksman.
 
To find out more about delivering banksman training through your in-house team, contact RTITB on +44(0)1952 520207, email: solutions@rtitb.co.uk or visit: www.rtitb.co.uk