December 1, 2011

Noise Free America

For immediate release

Henry Morgan
[email protected]

Ted Rueter
[email protected]

Chapel Hill: The California Department of Industrial Relations (CAL-OSHA) has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for its regulation 1592(a), which requires the backup alarm on most trucks hauling construction material to be normally audible at 200 feet in all directions. When audible at 200 feet in front of a truck, just how far are the alarms heard to the rear? During quiet periods and some weather conditions, these backup alarms will be audible more than twice these distances. Cal-OSHA’s new backup alarm regulation is a prescription for more and more unnecessary, excessive noise.

Henry Morgan, Director and General Manager of Brigade Electronics, stated that “this is utter nonsense. Cal-OSHA’s regulation is unsafe, leads to health problems and adversely affects the quality of life for both workers and neighbors. While this regulation is intended to ease enforcement, in reality reduces safety and creates a noise nightmare.”

Morgan noted that “no other regulator in the world requires a backup alarm to be audible to the front of the vehicle. Cal-OSHA’s position is completely inconsistent. This requirement does not apply to the same machines either under the jurisdiction of the Mines Safety and Health Administration or of Cal-OSHA when the trucks are not hauling construction material. Some companies are forced to fit a second backup alarm pointing forward on cab roofs to achieve compliance!”

Socrates said, “Treatment without diagnosis is malpractice.” Cal-OSHA has failed to diagnose the five root causes of backup alarm accidents, which are:


  • person unaware they were in danger


  • driver could not see the person


  • driver did not notice the person


  • driving carelessly or recklessly


  • person careless or reckless


The back-up alarm is there to protect the “person unaware they are in danger.” The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission Civil Penalties Proceeding report states that “the obvious purpose of a back-up alarm is to warn persons positioned behind the truck who cannot be seen by the truck operator.”

To have a backup alarm heard over such a large area (as required by Cal-OSHA) makes it unnecessary loud creating high rates of false alarm. which results in the alarm being tuned out. Clearly, no one in Cal-OSHA enjoyed fables as a child; if they had, the regulation would be changed. For those inspectors who need enlightenment, the Muppet show gives a modern version of Aesop’s famous fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

Amazingly, companies desiring to comply with Cal-OSHA regulations often fit a second backup alarm facing forward on the roof of the cabs! Obviously, this just adds to the cacophony of noise.

Bob Andres, a certified safety professional and a technical advisor to Noise Free America, stated that “the purpose of any vehicle motion alarm is to warn persons nearby when the vehicle’s operator has limited mobility. It doesn’t matter whether the vehicle is going forward or backward. There are many instances where the operator of a vehicle may have very limited visibility going forward.” Andres continued: “I find fault with the requirement that the alarm be heard 200 feet away and in all directions. That simply creates unnecessary noise that may create confusion and increased risk on a busy construction site. There is an old saying in the safety profession: ‘The safeguard in itself should not pose a safety hazard.’ It seems that Cal-OSHA has overlooked this simple maxim.”

Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, commented that “Cal-OSHA’s back-up beeper regulation is simply inane. It is unrelated to common sense or reality. It is based on the idea that noise somehow creates ‘safety.’ Instead, unnecessary noise simply leads to chaos and confusion. Cal-OSHA should rescind this noise-generating regulation. Government agencies should work to reduce noise, not to mandate noise.”

Noise Free America is a national non-profit organization devoted to noise reduction. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Yosemite National Park, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Wisconsin state legislature.