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More B.C. businesses replacing beep-beep-beep with white noise vehicle backup alarm

New alarm emits 'psssht-psssht' sound that is more focused in the area where a person is potentially at risk
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Transport trucks line up to drop off their shipping containers as a back-log of over 30 container ships sit anchored outside the Port in Long Beach, Calif., in this Feb. 18, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr.

More employers across British Columbia are replacing the conventional, beep-beep-beep sounding vehicle backup alarm with a “broadband” or “white noise” alarm. The broadband alarm, which meets WorkSafeBC’s occupational health and safety requirements, uses the same cadence but broadcasts a range of frequencies, rather than a single frequency, as is typically used in a conventional back up alarm.

Reversing vehicles can pose a significant safety risk on work sites. WorkSafeBC statistics show 11 workers were killed in the province in the 10-year period from 2006-15 when backing vehicles or mobile equipment pinned them against an object or struck them.

The broadband alarm emits a pulsing, “psssht-psssht” sound that is more focussed in the area where a person is potentially at risk, thereby alerting workers and pedestrians who are in the vicinity of the vehicle, while reducing noise disturbance in the surrounding community.

“When we hear beeping from back up alarms all the time, we gradually learn to ignore it as a warning signal,” said WorkSafeBC occupational audiologist Sasha Brown. “With the broadband alarm, because we’re not hearing it as much in our daily lives, we are less likely to become used to the sound, or habituated to it, and are therefore less likely to tune it out when it is important for us to hear it.”

In 2015, the University of Victoria installed 20 broadband alarms on its fleet of maintenance vehicles after receiving noise complaints from nearby residents. Today, most of its maintenance vehicles have been retrofitted and all new vehicles are evaluated for the retrofit with the broadband alarm.

“It has a very unique sound. It makes it more noticeable to those who need to hear it for safety reasons, and it’s eliminated our noise complaints from nearby residents,” said Darryl Huculak, EHS co-ordinator for the facilities department at the University of Victoria.

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