Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
Canada’s largest transit union is calling for federal legislation to protect transit operators in the wake of a brutal assault against a bus driver in Hamilton, Ontario.
“As he has done for the past 30 years, as ATU operator working for GO Transit pulled up to a bus stop, except this time a passenger unleashed a barrage of punches and kicks on him, resulting in hospitalization. Twenty-two other passengers had to witness this traumatic assault,” says ATU Canada President John Di Nino.
The operator sustained a head injury in the incident, which occurred in broad daylight on July 09, 2019 in a busy, urban centre in Hamilton. The perpetrator, who was arrested, stayed at the scene and taunted the operator after the assault. A suspect was taken into custody.
Di Nino says concerted effort from all levels of the national government is needed to put violence-prevention measures in place. He also calls for a Canadian version of the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Safety Act – a bill in the United States that is making its way through Congress with the help of the international union.
The bill calls for assault-mitigation infrastructure, de-escalation training, a national database to track assaults and modification to bus specifications to address blind spots and ergonomic issues.
Di Nino says a similar bill is needed in Canada to identify the risk of violence on transit systems and approve measures to mitigate this occupational hazard. He made references to violent incidents against transit operators in the last four years, including a fatal stabbing in Winnipeg and Edmonton, as well as more than 4,000 sexual assaults against passengers.
He also highlights the link between fare disputes and violence against operators. In many cases, arguments over fares escalate into violent altercations.
“It is a national crisis that Ottawa should be addressing through a national transit strategy with dedicated operational funding and a national database of operator and pedestrian assaults,” Di Nino says. “Politicians go to work and expect to leave their office alive at the end of the day, transit professionals do not have that luxury. Ottawa must take action now.”
In Ontario, we have the right to refuse unsafe work. Health and safety concerns should first be brought to the attention of the employer or supervisor. If nothing is done, it can be taken to the worker’s health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee. If the situation is not corrected, it can be reported to the nearest office of the Ministry of Labour. Workers also have the right to refuse unsafe work. OHSA Section 43 outlines the procedure that must be followed, and this process should be understood before a refusal is initiated. More information can be obtained from places like HRS Group Inc.
Considering the operator feels that he/she is at risk, the ability to refuse unsafe work goes a long way for protection. Mind you, there is a long way to go when the public is involved. The operator is directly in the line of fire and can be seriously injured or die from an altercation. De-escalation training can help but more is needed.
I hope the new minority government can look into this, with the help of the NDP, and can get the ball rolling.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – “In Canada, ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.