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chool bus yards are consistently busy throughout the day, and sometimes their capacities don’t match the size of the yellow fleet or the number of

technicians, causing potential hazards to employees or safety concerns with the buses. One case of safety concerns with buses

was recently reported in North Carolina. Guildford County Schools in Greensboro lacks enough garage space to maintain its 609-bus fleet within state guidelines. In a state report on the school dis-

trict’s most recent inspection, officials said Guildford’s minimal garage space created scheduling issues for technicians as they try to repair buses and perform required preventive maintenance. Inspections uncov- ered issues with leaking oil or other fluids, damaged lights and flat or damaged tires. Te school district’s ratio of buses to

garage bays is 66-to-1, considered higher than that of the state’s other larger school districts. Out of the largest school districts in North Carolina, Wake County has the highest ratio of only 46-to-1. Meanwhile, industry standard is approx-

imately 22-to-1, said Robert Pudlewski, STN’s technical editor and a 40-year indus- try veteran as an executive for Laidlaw Edu- cation Services and First Student. He said a facility with adequate space and equipment to maintain buses as well as space for parts and repair support equipment, such as lube and oil displacement and heavy tools, are part of the various basic requirements for a reliable and safe maintenance program.

20 School Transportation News May 2014

SAFETY CULTURE FROM THE TOP Yet the reality is that many school bus ga-

rages are not the ideal size, so transportation directors and fleet managers must instill a safe working environment for the buses and for employees. “Safety should be a departmental culture, and that starts from the top down,” said Rich Skibitski, fleet manager at Wayne County Public Schools in New Jersey. A standard practice employed by Skibits- ki and others like him includes the cardinal rule that no employee is to go through the bus garage work bays without permission and to restrict access to hazardous areas. At London ISD in Corpus Christi, Texas, Transportation Director Carlos Vargas said entry doors to the work bays are kept locked from the inside, forcing employees to use the office service door instead. “If it isn’t monitored by the head mechanic

or director, it will not work,” he added. Another standard practice is instructing

technicians to always use personal protec- tive equipment such as safety goggles and mechanic gloves in each bay, and especially when operating machinery. Training on vehicle lifts is vital as is ensuring stands and chocks are used at all times and air jacks are used for lifting and not for support. While sounding like givens to some, accidents have occurred when equipment has been modified. Adherence to OSHA safety rules and

practices is an extremely important compo- nent to accident prevention and maintain- ing safe working conditions. Since 2011 the

School Bus Safety Company has offered its OSHA Compliance Toolkit, designed specifically for school bus operations. While districts are government entities and immune to OSHA requirements, private school bus companies as well as manufac- turers are not. Tis single-source man- agement tool aids managers in becoming compliant with 22 standards that apply to maintenance facilities and three standards applicable to drivers. School Bus Safety Company President Jeff Cassell said the toolkit was designed to be quick and easy to use. “We find that school districts or contrac- tors buy the course for one of two reasons: Tey have had a shop accident or they have failed an OSHA audit,” he said. Cassell pointed out that many who

work in bus garages already think they are safe and, therefore, rarely focus on being compliant. He added that many school bus technicians don’t even practice lockout/ tagout — an OSHA standard practice that de-energizes machines and equipment to avoid the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and mainte- nance work. Tis mentality isn’t just with school bus mechanics. “We had a booth at a maintenance show

and had zero interest from every shop person we spoke to [about the toolkit], even when they agreed they do nothing now,” Cassell said, added it would take approxi- mately five hours per year for department managers to become OSHA-compliant. Of course, there’s a lot more to factor when ensuring maintenance safety in the bus garage. Looking at the issue from a wider scope, Pudlewski said fleets should have a competent, well-trained supervisory staff that is technically qualified to admin- ister the maintenance program, and has established defined lines of authority that’s consistent with the responsibility and com- munication between management and labor. He stressed that technicians and their

supervisors “need to approach any compo- nent of a student transportation program with the goal to eliminate risk by striving to build and maintain around its operation a professional safety, fleet management and maintenance program.” 

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