A recent survey by security conglomerate G4S (Group 4 Securicor) emphasises what everyone in public transport knows—when things go wrong (and sometimes even when they don’t) front line staff take the brunt. In the last five years, almost a fifth of those surveyed witnessed verbal abuse. And one in a thousand had seen a physical assault.
During inflationary times, it used to be that supermarket checkout staff bore the wrath of angered shoppers. Here at least there was always a supervisor or manager on hand to defuse any nasty situation.
G4S concentrated on the rail side of things. At medium to large stations, staff are on hand and you might even expect British transport police to help. Matters are different on the buses. The driver is very much on his or her own, may be miles from anywhere.
Where something nasty happens, the first reaction is to blame the operator when, in fact, it’s a societal problem. It’s often said that people complain that the police should be out there fighting ‘real’ crime but survey after survey points to littering, dog fouling and antisocial behaviour as the main law enforcement issues that concern the community. Yet, persuading the police to take matters seriously on public transport isn’t always easy.
In fairness, each operator these days will have (should have!) generic and specific risk assessments that have resulted in safer systems of work. There’s been a sea change in terms of a robust safety culture. This includes picking from a suite of measures that can assist drivers, such as:
- Installing perspex protection windows
- CCTV linked to real time monitoring or just recording
- Panic buttons
- Rapid response security
- Mobile phones
- Increased supervisory presence at termini
- Involving community police support officers Spit kits
- Double crewing
- Reporting systems that identify & then monitor hotspots
- Drivers reporting all incidents, large and small Withdrawing service