Effectively Helping Protect Public Transport Professionals
Written by: Robert Kaiser
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.
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 serious 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.
In 2013, Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) stated:
“The problem of workplace violence has always been a great concern… and increasingly high levels of assaults on our members indicates that employers are failing to implement procedures that adequately address the issue.”
A statement on the Canadian Transit Union ATU reads:
“Assaults on ATU members and all transit workers have become an epidemic. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear stories about bus operators and other transit workers being punched, stabbed, yelled at, spit on, shot at, and worse. In the past five years, there has been a dramatic increase in the level and intensity of senseless attacks on transit workers. The impact on the victims is clear. Broken eye sockets. Deep puncture wounds. The loss of certain bodily functions. And while broken bones heal with time, the emotional scars linger indefinitely.”
The UK’s ‘Rail Delivery Group’ stated in their May 2017 edition of their ‘Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway’’ publication:
“Assaults and trauma to our workforce are ongoing concerns that the railway is committed to address. The range of staff exposed to the potential for assaults is wider than commonly assumed; engineering staff attending failed trains, platform staff during disruption, lone workers, as well as train crew and revenue protection employees are all susceptible to assault.”
I strongly believe that lightweight stab resistant vests that also offer exceptional levels 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.
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… or if 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 was 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 a couple of years ago.
Am I exaggerating?
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… many of our recently developed designs are of a ‘non-confrontational’ design 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:
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.
The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure of the Government of South Australia announced on the 7th March 2016:
“Thugs who attack public transport staff in South Australia will face up to 25 years in jail under changes announced by the State Government. Extra security guards and a public awareness campaign will also be introduced to further protect bus, train and tram workers. These tougher penalties send a clear message that any act of violence towards public transport workers will not be tolerated.”
I hope that other Governments will follow this example and send a similar clear message these days to those threatening or assaulting professionals working within the field of public transport.
Should you ever have any questions in reference to stab resistant vests, or bite resistant arm guards 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 contact us.