TfL: 'Bus driver welfare is a top priority' says London authority after national study sounds alarm

Of those surveyed, 94% said their working conditions could be improved by the introduction of adjustable seating, steering columns and driver dashboards.
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Over three quarters of bus drivers have reported musculoskeletal (MSK) problems due to their work, a survey by the RMT union has revealed.

A total of 400 bus workers were surveyed nationally, outside London, with 78% saying their occupation caused MSK problems, such as back, neck and shoulder pain.

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Of those surveyed, 94% said their working conditions could be improved by the introduction of adjustable seating, steering columns and driver dashboards.

And 95% said the bus driver's cabin could be designed in a more ergonomic way with 94% not feeling they were given equal treatment to office workers who ask for workplace adjustments.

Nearly one quarter (23%) of respondents said they had taken time off in the previous year due to back pain, neck pain or shoulder pain.

While London bus drivers are represented by Unite, the RMT raised concerns about drivers' health nationally. Transport for London (TfL) said driver welfare "is a top priority" and that the design of London buses means they should be ergonomically appropriate for drivers.

RMT's Mick Lynch

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "These results are deeply concerning and underline the need for strong trade unions in the workplace, pushing employers to make the changes workers need. 

"It is unacceptable that bus workers are having to take time off for injuries sustained at work when there is technology available that can easily assist them ergonomically.   

"Bus companies are solely concerned with private profit, and we need to see all services taken into public ownership for the benefit of passengers and bus workers."

TfL drivers

TfL said that, according to TfL’s Bus Vehicle Specification, vehicle layout should be a suitable working environment and be ergonomically designed to assist and protect the driver.

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Tom Cunnington, TfL's head of buses business development, said: "Bus drivers play an essential role in keeping the capital moving and their welfare is a top priority for us. We are committed to working together with operators and trade unions to improve conditions for bus drivers’ health and wellbeing and understand their needs and how we can support them. We would encourage any driver to report any concerns about welfare or safety. 

“Working together with our bus operators, we are developing a programme for bus drivers that focuses on longer-term improvements to their health and wellbeing. We recently carried out research with the emphasis on being more proactive in understanding existing health conditions of bus drivers, supporting better health and identifying those most at risk and are looking at the best way to deliver bus driver health and wellbeing assessments. We'll continue to work closely with bus operators and drivers to ensure every driver's workplace is safe and healthy.”

LondonWorld has contacted Unite, which represents London bus drivers for comment.

Are you a bus driver in London? Get in touch with our news desk at [email protected]