May 28, 2020

Spit Screens Installed on Private Buses

NSW Bus Drivers, doing their job, are the targets of attacks from members of the public who are deliberately coughing and spitting on them.

The NSW Police are investigating two incidents, one in Eastgardens where a man is facing charges, related to spitting on a bus driver in response to being required to leave the bus following aggressive behaviour.

NSW Police are also investigating an attack by a passenger on a bus in Cardiff. The man was told not to board a bus because he could not pay the fare. Our driver member alleges that the man then deliberately coughed on him and stated he had Coronavirus, before leaving the scene.

Richard Olsen, State Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union of NSW said, “The TWU membership is disgusted by these gutless attacks on Bus Drivers, people doing their jobs, keeping their community moving.”

The TWU expects that if people engage in spitting on drivers that they would face the full force of the law, including the $5000 fine.

“We would call on members of the public, to avoid taking out their frustrations on drivers. We have seen too many violent attacks on bus drivers over too many years,” Mr Olsen said.

The Transport Workers’ Union of NSW (TWU) have been working with Bus Operators since March to develop “spit screen” prototypes. As a result, the private bus industry operators sourced solutions that provide protection to drivers.

“Transport for NSW have seen the work that the TWU and operators have been involved in to afford drivers better protection, as a result Transport for NSW sought that operators do risk assessments and submit prototypes for consideration,” Mr Olsen said.

  • Yesterday (27 May 2020), Transport for NSW gave the first approval for spit screens, made of carbon fibre, to be installed on privately operated buses in Region Six, the inner west of Sydney.
  • Transport for NSW are funding the installation of the screens.
  • The Screens will be on offer to the entire private bus industry in NSW.

Richard Olsen said, “The TWU represent the transport workers in the private bus industry, which runs over 80% of the fleet on NSW Government Contracts. We concerned that the Sydney buses run by State Transit are still waiting to have a safety solution installed for driver protection.”

  • Transport for NSW at the request of the TWU has also agreed to roll out industry wide training for drivers to equip them to de-escalate dangerous situations.
  • The TWU can assure that if attacks continue to occur on buses in the private industry, members of the public can expect disruption to services and possible bans related to unsafe work which will take effect if the community cannot control their behaviour.
  • Since March, Transport for NSW have been listening and implementing the recommendations of the TWU for bus driver protection.
  • These actions have included, marshals at major transport hubs, buffer zones for social distancing, cash handling bans and now the installation of spit screens.

At the request of the TWU, SafeWork NSW recently became involved in serving improvement notices to a bus company north of Newcastle who were not complying with driver’s safety needs after regular attacks on moving buses.

A 2019 TWU Bus Driver survey showed results that driver safety is compromised on buses.

We have no reason to suspect that this situation has changed when it comes to the rules surrounding Covid-19.

A small sample of the survey results showed:

  • 84% of Drivers face verbal abuse from passengers with 81% experiencing verbal abuse daily.
  • A majority of drivers have felt threatened by the behaviour of passengers over a one-year period.
  • 74% of Drivers have face regular abuse when enforcing Opal card rules.

Interviews or Media Inquiries – Colin Henderson 0405 625 208


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