Broadband back-up alarms: new technology offers an alternative to traditional tonal alarms


Reversing vehicles pose a safety risk at job sites. Back-up alarms are meant to prevent injury or death by alerting people near vehicles when they are moving backward.  As required by Sections 213.11 (f) & (g), 216 (1)(g), 224(f) and 230.21(1)(f) of the OHS Act, audible back-up alarms are required on powered mobile equipment and vehicles with a capacity of one tonne.

Until recently, the most popular kind of back-up or reversing alarm was a tonal alarm, the traditional beep, beep, beep sound.

But these back-up beepers have limitations:

  • Sound can be difficult to localize
  • Repetition of the same frequency tends to get ignored over time
  • May damage hearing
  • Contributes to noise pollution

New technology presents us with more options for preventing workplace accidents involving the reversal of powered and motor vehicles, as well as addressing some of the limitations. White-noise / broadband alarms offer advantages over the typical tonal alarms:

  • Broadcast a range of frequencies making them easier to locate
  • Sound is more confined to those in the area who are most at risk
  • Reduces noise disturbance and noise pollution in surrounding community
  • Are available with adjustable sounds for specific environments 

Listen to the difference yourself:

While there is a cost difference between the traditional alarms and the new broadband alarms, some argue the price difference is worth the decreased risk of hearing damage and safety features provided by the broadband alarm.

If you are considering trying the new broadband technology, we recommended you test it on a small number of vehicles in a closed environment without pedestrian traffic. The City of Ottawa is currently piloting the technology on snow removal vehicles .

Training staff is important, as is the development of procedures based on the testing and employee feedback.

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For more information:

Compliance and Regulatory Review Department


Further reading:

Industry study points to broadband as top reversing safety solution

New Brunswick regulation 91-191

More B.C. businesses replacing the beep-beep-beep with a ‘white noise’ vehicle back-up alarm

New technology makes quieter, safer trucks

Vehicle Motion Alarms: Necessity, Noise Pollution, or Both?

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