by Bill Bair

Lakeland, Florida – The Ledger

May 2, 2009

The clock on the dresser reads 1:22 a.m. There is a large compactor, used to roll out pavement, barreling toward the bedroom.

Beep, beep, beep, beep ….

Crews are resurfacing sections of State Road 60 in Lake Wales. The work is being done at night. Working on road projects at night, when traffic is lighter, is a good thing. The backup beepers on heavy equipment were designed by the devil. The beepers make far more noise than the construction.

1:41 a.m.: Beep, beep, beep, beep …. A heavy dump truck is preparing to dump its load on our bed. Make it stop!

We live about a half-block from the highway. The beeps can be heard seven or eight blocks away, but are really piercing when they are close.

Under state law the operator of a vehicle can be ticketed if his radio or stereo can be heard 25 feet from the vehicle. Backup beepers are exempt. The beepers are required for heavy equipment under federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

An organization called Noise Free America has long campaigned against backup beepers. “Because of OSHA, the American soundscape is littered with constant refrains of ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’

“The New York State Department of Health, after investigating an industrial accident, concluded that back-up beepers were completely ineffective,” Noise Free America said in a 2005 news release. It said the New York investigation concluded that: “Often, people who work near back-up beepers have become accustomed to their sound and desensitized to their use as warning signals.”

I suspect workers pay about as much attention to the beepers as most of us pay to car alarms sounding in mall parking lots.

2:38 a.m.: Beep, beep, beep, beep…. I could learn to hate digital clocks. I just don’t want to know the time so precisely at 2:38 a.m. At 2:38 a.m. I’d rather not know the time.

We live in an age of technology.

There have to be alternatives to backup beepers.

Cameras could be mounted so the driver could see behind the vehicle; at night, flashing lights would probably be effective; or workers could be required to wear collars that administer a mild shock if they stand too close to the rear of a vehicle.

On the other hand, workers could probably be trained not to stand behind a huge piece of equipment that could smash them flatter than an armadillo on State Road 60 East.

Just stop the blasted beepers! “At many industrial sites, the beepers are set so loud so that they can be heard by workers wearing ear plugs,” said Noise Free America.

Something is wrong when workers have to wear ear plugs to protect their hearing from meaningless alarms.

3:02 a.m.: Beep, beep, beep, beep…. A front end loader is headed our way.

If there are bleeping beepers involved, there is no still of the night.

There certainly are no sweet dreams.