Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) drivers who deal with the general public every day are unfortunately in an occupational group that is strongly associated with the risk of verbal or physical assault at work. However, there are techniques that drivers can use to mitigate the risks surrounding these situations.
What constitutes work-related violence?
Work-related violence is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’.
Typically, these types of attack amount to verbal assaults and threats, but sometimes they can become physical in nature. Regardless, these situations can have a detrimental effect on a driver’s physical and mental health, including stress, low morale, and depression.
Why are PCV drivers at risk?
As bus and coach drivers are around so many people on a regular basis, it is no surprise that their risk of coming up against physical and verbal confrontation is significantly increased. Those driving passenger vehicles are not only at risk of confrontation from their passengers; aggression stemming from road rage incidents and people not on board the vehicle can be just as much of a risk.
Protecting drivers with the CAR technique
Many companies have policies for dealing with verbal or physical abuse. However, teaching a method with the acronym ‘CAR’ (Calm, Assure, Resolve) can give drivers a positive and safe way to deal with confrontation when on the road.
In the case of road rage incidents:
- Calm – Stay calm and do not retaliate. A driver must remember their professional reputation is at risk in this situation and that they should not do anything to make the situation worse.
- Assure – Quite often, people will be satisfied in knowing you have recognised their annoyance. For instance, in a road dispute, a driver can simply hold up their hand to assure a car driver that their issue has been acknowledged.
- Resolve – Drivers should always consider the possibility that they have done something wrong. For example, could rectifying their driving help alleviate the aggression of another road user? Even if the PCV driver is not at fault, they could consider slowing down or moving lanes to back off safely.
For face-to-face and verbal confrontation, the same method can be applied:
- Calm – Consider how best to calm the situation. Often the most important thing for a driver is to listen and allow the other party to do all the talking.
- Assure – When speaking with people, a hand gesture clearly won’t help the situation as it would when on the road. Instead, a driver should prove that they have listened to the issue and have understood the other person’s position. Often people who feel unhappy just want to know that they have been heard. A driver showing that they have listened can often be enough to defuse a potentially stressful situation.
- Resolve – Try to offer a solution. Drivers should keep an even tone and choose their words carefully – never accuse the other person of being wrong. If drivers are at fault, acknowledgement of that can help defuse confrontational situations. If all else fails, drivers can provide the person with details of the company if they wish to make a complaint. There should also be policies in place for drivers to report serious incidents of confrontation or violence to management.
Dealing with physical violence
Physical confrontation should be avoided at all costs and using the ‘CAR’ technique can help stop situations escalating. But if a physical situation arises, what should drivers do?
One key thing for drivers to understand is the role that body language can play in these events. 55% of what another person thinks about our intentions is interpreted from our body language, so it’s important not to project aggression, fear, or nervousness without realising it.
Another tip is standing at a 45-degree angle to the other aggressor. By doing this a driver naturally offers a smaller target and appears less threatening. By keeping weight on the back foot, this also naturally increases the distance between the driver and the other person. Finally, if a driver places their hands down by their side with the palms facing out this not only appears less threatening but can also more easily block any blows.
If you need more advice
Physical and verbal confrontation in the workplace can be a stressful part of drivers’ lives so employers should consider delivering training to help drivers deal with this. One simple way to incorporate this into the schedule is through Driver CPC Periodic Training.
Members of the RTITB Driver CPC Consortium have access to training materials specifically created for PCV drivers via the Driver CPC Instructor portal. The module ‘Understanding the Driver-Customer Relationship’ covers the area of dealing with confrontation in detail, alongside other relevant topics including Disability Awareness, Representing the Company, and Racism and Discrimination.
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