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Safety Topic of the Month

Are Your Gonna Use a Spotter? (link to Safety Beacon)

by: George Vogt, CAP Chief of Safety

With more than a thousand vehicles in the CAP fleet, we are bound to see occasional minor mishaps resulting in dings, scrapes, bends, scratches and cracks. When we review the vehicle mishaps in SIRS, the ones that frustrate us the most are the ones where drivers aren’t making use of all the available risk controls to prevent those minor scrapes. These are the ones that are easiest to prevent.

One of the more common types of mishaps occurs when large vehicles like vans are put into motion and hit something … a light pole, a fence post, a barrier, another car, etc. Whenever we do a mishap review, we try to determine “why” this happened so we can address that contributing factor. In the majority of these the driver says they didn’t see the object. If that’s the case, what can we do to make sure the driver is aware of all the things around their van? What’s a good risk control? How about a spotter?

I saw one review that said the driver didn’t use a spotter because they “weren’t backing up” so it wasn't "required." Sure enough, CAPR 77-1 only talks about using a spotter when it talks about backing up. And even then, a spotter isn’t strictly required. It is, admittedly, not written too clearly.

Let me say this clearly … its’ an important point. We don’t use a spotter because it says so in the regulation. We use a spotter to make sure we don’t hit anything!

When you are parking a vehicle, or maneuvering in a parking lot, or backing out of a driveway your mission is to move the vehicle to its new location without hitting anything. That means you are responsible for figuring out the risk controls that will reduce the risk of hitting something.

Is there another member there? Use them as a spotter…even if you’re not backing. Make sure you can see them in your mirror and your window is down so you can hear them yell “STOP!”

No one else there? Walk around your vehicle and look for anything that might get in the way. Come up with a plan on how you’re going to miss it. Move the vehicle a little then check again if you need to.

Concentrate. Remember, your job at that moment is to avoid hitting something. Let that be your sole focus. No cell phones. No chatting.

This article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but also quite serious. “You’ve got one job….!” Ask yourself, “what can go wrong, and what am I doing to keep that from happening?” That is risk management.

Wouldn’t it be a neat idea for the squadron to go out in a big empty parking lot, put up some orange safety cones, and practice your spotter techniques?

Note: All the pictures on this page involve vans that were moved forward (not backing) and pulled into the big object you see in the picture … something the driver “didn’t see.” No spotters were used, even though they were available. The drivers didn’t look around to see what was there. Do you see an improvement opportunity?

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