Drivers vulnerable

Bus driving is now classified at a vulnerable occupation in SA, in an attempt to keep drivers safe

Drivers vulnerable
Drivers vulnerable

By Amie Hickland | November 7, 2013

Bus driving is now a vulnerable occupation in South Australia, and the move has been welcomed by the industry.

The declaration, under Section 5AA of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, allows police to consider offences committed against a bus driver, in the course of their duties, as aggravated offences.

South Australian Bus Association Executive Director Lauran Huefner says the industry supports any measure that will help increase the health and safety of drivers.

"Although risk of incident is small, it is nonetheless important for any worker to feel safe in their work environment, as well as feel empowered when dealing with their customers," he says.

"The government has also recently invested in additional Transit Police and we believe these two initiatives will provide an all-round safer journey on public transport for drivers and passengers alike.

"Focussing on drivers alone, we agree this initiative will provide a deterrent to bad behaviour on buses, hopefully reducing the number of incidents."

Australian Public Transport Industrial Association National Industrial Relations Manager Ian Macdonald says this is an important step for the industry.

"Obviously from a work health and safety position it would be mean a higher duty of care would be required of an employer to ensure a safe work environment," he says.

"It may mean steps would need to be taken to ensure that drivers had self defence capabilities as well as skills in avoiding conflict situations."

MacDonald understands many operators in the eastern states are now putting their drivers through these types of courses in anticipation of the problems identified by the department.

Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure Deputy Chief Executive Public Transport Lino Di Lernia says the declaration recognises the heightened risk to bus drivers simply doing their job.

"The aggravated nature of the offences allows the courts to impose harsher penalties against those who do commit offences against bus drivers," he says.

"We have seen instances when a bus driver has been targeted by passengers as he or she simply goes about their job.

"We hope that the tougher penalties potential offenders could face act as a deterrent," he says.

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