How can stab resistant vests help protect our public transport professionals?
Well, it is estimated that the UK rail network alone carries in excess of 750 million passengers each year. If only a small percentage of these rail users travel without paying the appropriate fare the loss of revenue is considerable.
According to some of the UK’s leading public transport firms, we estimate that fare evasion costs the UK rail industry over £200 million a year.
Public Transport companies therefore employ Revenue Protection Inspectors or Fare Inspectors to patrol different forms of public transport (e.g. trains or buses) issuing penalty fares to passengers who travel without a valid ticket or without the correct ticket.
I strongly believe that lightweight stab resistant vests that also offer a great level of protection from blunt force trauma and hypodermic needles, will reduce the risk of physical injury when suffering from any type of assault by one of those individuals that have decided not to pay for their fare.
Of course, not everyone without a fare is a nasty and brutal individual, out there to seriously harm the first revenue protection officers they come across. Some passengers may well have forgotten to pay for the fare; they may just have had too many things on their mind. This is of course all possible!
Possible is also that a particular passenger without a ticket simply never pays for his/her fare, that person may well be intoxicated, under the influence of class A drugs or alcohol. That person may well suffer from mental illnesses or have a real violent history, which means he or she will certainly not stop form harming a revenue protection officer in order to avoid identification or even arrest.
Risk Assessments & Stab Resistant Vests
In my operational career I had to write many many risk assessments, and I have learned that in most cases there are only two types of risks… ‘high risk’ or ‘unknown risk’.
Regardless of the fact that a train journey is crossing the most beautiful stretch of the British Isles and regardless of the fact that a bus journey might take place on a nice lovely sunny Sunday morning, the matter of fact is that we simply cannot know a) who will be on that train or bus, and b) what the passenger’s history is. What have they been through over the past 24 hours? What is the purpose of their journey? Who will be under the influence of drugs or alcohol? There are simply too many variables to conclude this operation should be classed as ‘low risk’ and hence additional safety measures are not worth exploring. Getting these risk assessments right means establishing correctly if stab resistant vests would benefit the frontline professional… of is the safety of that professional would be improved to a reasonable level.
I do believe that a revenue protection inspector is facing what I would class as ‘unknown risk’ every single time he or she is approaching a member of the public asking for the ticket. OF COURSE I agree that to 99.99% of times that question is asked… a positive response may well be the result. Having said that, I also believe that 0.01% of the above mentioned annual 750,000,000 passengers is a pretty interesting figure to work from.
In fact the figure is high enough for the British Transport Police and Chief Constable Paul Crowther to host a dedicated conference aimed at tackling and preventing violence and anti-social behaviour on public transport back in May this year.
Am I exaggerating?
Examples of Recent Incidents & Key Risks
- During bus journeys robberies drivers have been threatened with knives, air guns, even samurai swords. During train journeys innocent passengers have been threatened and subjected to violence and racial abuse, often resulting in on board staff getting involved.
- Recently a firework was thrown on to a bus. The driver managed to get out of the cabin in time but the force of the explosion damaged the cabin, shattering both front windscreens and damaging the assault screen.
- Anti-social behaviour… several incidents have been recorded where youths urinated down the periscope through which the driver sees the top deck of the bus. In some cases the driver has left his cab to talk to the youths and was attacked by them. Other countless reports highlight the cutting and destruction of seating.
- Some employees are required to carry cash… which risks theft.
- Certain locations are particularly at risk from vandals and anti social behaviour.
- Criminals, drunk passengers and drug users are all representing a realistic risk to frontline staff… and I do believe that stab resistant vests would improve their chances of remaining unharmed.
- ‘Police seek suspects in ticket inspector assault’
- ‘Bus ticket inspector beaten-up after asking passengers for tickets’
- ‘Ticket inspector knifed in the back when he quizzed fare-dodgers’
- ‘Hunt for woman who attacked train ticket inspector in Leicester’
- ‘Police hunt after ‘violent attack’ on Eastbourne train staff’
- ‘Assault against public transport drivers could lead to harsh sentencing’
- ‘Appeal for information after ticket inspector assaulted on train‘
The public has been asked to help making travelling on buses and trains safer. Campaigns have been initiated and several organisations are starting to pull together to make a positive difference.
But there is only so much we can do… and some individuals are just ‘bad’ and dealing with these individuals means exposing yourself to real risks.
In many cases, successful conflict management or conflict resolution training for all public facing employees can make a real positive difference and substantially reduced the risk of workplace related violence and subsequent injuries. In case anyone requires such training… please do get in touch.. I may well have the right contacts for you.
Better reporting procedures, personal attack alarms, body worn video solutions, assault screens and radio communication systems have also helped improved the personal safety of public transport professionals.
The question we need to ask ourselves is what can and should be done to create the highest possible chance of these Revenue Protection Inspector coming home at the end of their shift… unharmed?
As I have stated a few moments ago, I strongly believe that lightweight stab resistant will reduce the risk of physical injury when suffering from any type of assault by someone who didn’t pay for his ticket… or who couldn’t care less about complying with ‘rules and regulations’ or who doesn’t understand ‘manners’ and ‘respect’ and all the things that make a good society function.
Recommending stab resistant vests does not mean we suggest you or your colleague is in immediate danger and neither does it mean you should get paranoid or scared every single day you put your uniform on and start your shift. I simply say that you will have a higher chance of remaining unharmed in the unlikely, but nevertheless possible, case of something going wrong.
I have said it many many times before… wearing personal protective equipment can be compared to wearing a seat belt when driving a car. We do not put the seat belt on because we believe we are going to have an accident today or because we are questioning our own driving skills. We are simply acknowledging the fact that there is an exceptionally small chance that we might crash. Yet, if this exceptionally small chance becomes reality, you have increased the chance of survival by wearing a seat belt. There is no question about that!
PPSS Group have designed, developed and manufactured stab resistant vests offering the highest level of protection from edged weapon, hypodermic needles and blunt force trauma. Weighing just 2.5kg and being just 5mm thin this type of personal protective equipment (PPE) has recently become an essential tool to combat workplace violence related injuries and even death.
Over the past few years I have personally advised many senior officials within public transport of the importance of ‘customer perception’. Many have echoed that overtly worn stab resistant vests can at times be perceived as ‘confrontational’, ‘aggressive’, paramilitary’ and ‘hard security’… something a public transport firm might well be opposed to.
Revenue Protection Officers can appear ‘approachable’, ‘helpful’ and ‘general safety conscious’ whilst wearing body armour… our recently developed ‘Tabard Style’ Hi-Viz Stab Resistant Vests are our a ‘non-confrontational’ design option and successfully worn by several customer facing professionals operating in a ‘higher risk environment’ e.g. facility management, hospital security and civil enforcement.
The UK rules and regulations are pretty straight forward. A revenue inspector’s or revenue protection officer’s job responsibility is to engage with any person who ‘misbehaves’… and what that means is stated as follows:
- Entering any train for the purpose of travelling on the railway without a valid ticket entitling travel.
- Failing to hand over a ticket for inspection and verification when asked to do so by an authorised person
- Travelling on the railway without previously paid the fare and with the intention to avoid payment.
- Having failed to pay the fare, giving a false name and/or address to an authorised person.
- Being a person liable to pay a penalty fare did fail, at the time, and in response to an authorised officer did give a false name and/or address.
- Altered or counterfeit ticket(s) or knowingly using any ticket which has been altered / forged in any way.
- Smoking or carrying any lighted item on any part of the railway.
- Any person believed by an authorised person to be unfit to be on the railway due a state of intoxication.
- Use of any threatening, abusive, obscene of offensive language on the railway.
- Behaving in a disorderly, indecent or offensive manner on the railway.
- Any other unacceptable behaviour such as damaging or detaching any part of the railway, spitting, dropping litter, molesting or willfully interfering with the comfort or convenience of any person on the railway.
In my opinion these men and women who do this job may well not be the most popular guys out there… but they do deserve to be safe… end off!
Should you ever have any questions in reference to stab resistant vests, then please do not hesitate and contact my team, and in the strictest of confidence they will help you to the best of their ability.
Please visit www.ppss-group.com or email my team firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +44 (0) 845 5193 953