The WCB on Backup Alarms

A few months ago we wrote to the Workers' Compensation Board with a couple of requests.

WCB regulations require any vehicle with an obstructed rear view to be equipped with an audible alarm. This alarm must sound whenever the vehicle is put in reverse. While the purpose of the regulations is laudable, we pointed out that backup alarms have become a significant noise problem.

We asked them, first, to relax the regulation to allow for alarms that are triggered by radar. Such devices are on the market but currently do not meet the WCB standards since they do not automatically sound regardless of whether there is any obstacle behind the vehicle.

Our second request was that the WCB do whatever is in their power to restrict the volume of backup alarms. We pointed out that as these alarms become more and more common they tend to be ignored, and so are made louder. Workers then adopt better hearing protection, which leads to even louder alarms, and so on in a vicious circle.

In response to our first request, the WCB has decided that the present technology is not safe enough. It does nothing to warn people in the vicinity that a vehicle is about to back up, and it provides the driver with no audible indication that the system is working properly. Nor does it do a good enough job of detecting low obstacles such as children or crouching workers. The WCB did point out, however, that vehicles can be equipped with video cameras providing a clear view to the rear, in which case alarms are not required, and some firms are doing this.

In response to our second request, the WCB has undertaken to "provide encouragement to industry to limit the volume so as to be adequate in the immediate operating areas only and to reduce the volume on quieter shifts." They stated further that WCB staff have been asked to recommend how best to convey this message to industry.

-- Peter Donnelly

Sound Bites

Boombox Crackdown

In St. Petersburg, Florida, police will now impose a $42 fine on drivers whose car stereos register over 70 decibels from 100 feet away.

In Chicago, more than 6,800 vehicles have been impounded for noise violations over the last two years. A handful of suburbs are going the extra mile to silence blaring car stereos, using weapons that include tow trucks, undercover sting operations and $500 fines to muffle ear-splitting music
-- Chicago Sun-Times, 4 Aug. 1999

Losing Your Hearing at the Movies

Going to the cinema may seriously damage your hearing, says the British Standards Institution. Many ads and trailers are "ear-shattering." -- up to 95 decibels. The BSI said an investigation into noise levels in cinemas was sparked by "concerns for the nation's hearing" after powerful digital sound systems were fitted in cinemas. (...) "A system is due to be introduced which will level out all sound levels in cinemas."

-- The Mirror (UK), 12 Aug. 1999

Right to Quiet, Fall 1999

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