Winnipeg Transit is exploring the idea of installing safety shields to protect its 1,100 bus operators from assaults. Prototype enclosures have been installed in the driver compartment of two transit buses to evaluate the effectiveness of the shatterproof panels and gauge reaction from bus operators and customers.
Winnipeg Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1505, (ATU) have been looking into the feasibility of using clear plastic shields to enhance the safety and security of bus operators. The test shields are designed to reduce the chance of anyone making physical contact with an operator. The shields are made from a polycarbonate material that is strong enough to deflect most projectiles. Customers will still be able to communicate verbally with the operator through speaking holes in the partition.
In 2009, there were 70 reports of operators being subjected to some type of physical assault. About 40 percent of assaults were in the form of persons spitting or throwing an object at the operator. Transit officials estimate a safety shield could prevent a significant number of these assaults.
Testing of the shields is expected to take several months and further evaluation may be required before there is any decision to install the devices on more buses. Part of the purpose of the trial is to research costs and to establish appropriate budgeting.
A number of transit systems in North America have installed or are testing similar shields.