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Challenges &

Opportunities in the Ever-Changing School

Bus Garage Automotive mechanics and technicians are in high demand for their service and safety

Written By Julie Metea T

John Rapp Owner

he increasing complexity of transportation has made the automotive technician one of the most technically

demanding occupations, as well as one of the most injury prone. Not only do modern school bus me- chanics have to continually learn new technology, they have to con- stantly practice safety, for the benefit of students and themselves. And that means staying out of harm’s way. The National Safety Council

reports that both transportation and repair-maintenance workers are ranked among the top five occu- pations with the largest number of workplace injuries that result in lost work days. In most cases, employ- ers lose workers to the three most common types of injury events: Overexertion, harmful contact with equipment and falls. With all workplace injuries esti-

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mated annually at 4.5 million in the U.S., workplace deaths are com- paratively low, at 5,000 annually, according to the NSC. Fatalities also do occur within school transporta- tion, even in the safest districts. The Pulaski County Special School District in Arkansas is rec- ognized in its community for top bus safety and security protocols. School bus inspections are con- ducted four times a day. Yet the district reported the death of a veteran mechanic who was hit

18 School Transportation News • FEBRUARY 2019

and killed by the bus that he had pulled over to close a lift gate door that had swung open. When the mechanic closed this door, the air brake disengaged and the bus began rolling in neutral. It was the first school bus accident that resulted in a fatality for the district. The best defense against work- place incidents is a good offense. Governments and vehicle man- ufacturers have heavily invested into safety education and tech- nology training programs to keep employees safe. Through a new “Work to Zero”

initiative, the NSC aims to educate employers about new technological safety advancements, to reduce and ultimately eliminate preventable deaths in the workplace. A $500,000 grant from the Pittsburgh-based McElhattan Foundation promises to help NSC develop tools and resources for employers who want to integrate potentially life-saving technology and comprehensive reports. “Technology holds immense

promise when it comes to mitigat- ing human error. We are seeing this on our roadways, as our vehicles become more automated, and we can see it in our workplaces, too,” said Deborah Hersman, who last month concluded her tenure as NSC chief executive officer and president.

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