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ATU turns up the volume in campaign for healthy, safe, and secure workstations

ATU is turning up the volume in its campaign to fix the dangerously inadequate workstations that leave bus drivers vulnerable to assault and health problems in Canada and the U.S. The campaign begins with education; providing the information necessary for members to pressure agencies, legislatures, and governments to provide transit operators with healthy, safe, and secure work environments.

Chief among the safety concerns that have not been addressed is the operator’s workstation. So many of the difficulties that bus drivers experience start there.

Protection from assault

Bus drivers are not soldiers, police, or firefighters, yet they live in fear of being injured on the job every day. Verbal abuse, spit, blindside punches by unruly, violent passengers, and other abuses have become common. Working conditions like these are simply unacceptable in most occupations, yet for bus drivers they are now regarded as “business as usual.”

Among the better solutions employed to protect operators are retractable shields that block assaults without compromising the comfort and accessibility of drivers.

It’s long past time for all of us to demand that governments and transit agencies do everything in their power to protect bus drivers and put a stop to this – now!

Protecting pedestrians from blind spots

Bus drivers also live in fear of accidentally hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk hidden behind a windshield pillar and a mirror. The deaths that result from these blind spots have not spurred most governments and agencies to spend even the minimal amount of money it would take to fix the problem. It’s easier to blame the driver. The liability makes it more expensive to fail in delivering safe equipment.

Protection from back injuries

The majority of if not most, drivers experience back problems over the course of their careers. The constant pounding of drivers’ spines virtually guarantees that they will experience musculoskeletal disorders. Many are forced out, disabled by long hours and poor design. This must stop – now!

Improving bus driver seats to the point where they protect drivers from back injuries has been a low priority for most properties. Agencies should be required to install active driver seats that use motors to eliminate more of the whole-body vibration that can permanently disable drivers.

Protection from lung disease

Bus drivers typically work in environments with air quality that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other workplace. And too many drivers have progressive and terminal lung diseases as a result. This must stop – now!

Transit systems must ensure that the air their employees breath meets the minimum standards expected in a healthy workplace. Passengers and employees deserve fresh and filtered air.

Protection from occupational injuries

Finally, many drivers receive occupational injuries as a result of poorly designed dashboards and controls. Transit agencies should be required to purchase buses that meet current ergonomic standards for drivers. This should include intelligent steering wheels that protect drivers’ wrists, elbows and shoulders and adjustable throttle and brake pedals.

These are not outrageous demands. They are the minimum actions employers should take to ensure the safety of their workers. It’s time that we stood up and demanded to be treated with the same consideration that most other workers take for granted.