No one knows as much about how people can get hurt on the job as a workers' compensation attorney. Trust me—I've just about seen it all. When I started representing injured workers several decades ago, I was surprised by how often I got calls from school bus drivers. As a kid in Joplin, MO, riding a big yellow bus (the "Blue Bird" of happiness!) to school, I only ever saw the driver opening and closing the doors and sitting in her high perch, turning that big steering wheel, grinding those gears. It never occurred to me it might be a dangerous job. After representing several Ohio school bus drivers, however, I have come to understand just how hazardous this work is.
How School Bus Drivers Get Hurt
I have had several wonderful clients over the years who were bus drivers and who eventually qualified for permanent total disability benefits. For all of them, it was not a single incident that caused their permanent disability. Rather, it was decades of smaller injuries culminating in the inability to work. My clients hurt themselves in ways I would have never expected, including:
- Repetitive motions. Opening and closing doors repeatedly, pressing a sticky gas pedal, grinding stubborn gears in a manual transmission, and turning the semi-truck-sized steering wheel eventually take their toll on a body. These are physically challenging, repetitive actions that can cause neck, back, shoulder, elbow, knee, and foot injuries.
- Falling on ice. Ohio winters are not kind. I think almost every school bus driver I have talked to has recounted a time when they slipped on ice while walking around the bus or helping a child get on or off. A hard fall on the ice can cause a devastating knee or back injury.
- Assisting disabled riders. One of the most strenuous tasks a bus driver has is assisting disabled children onto the bus. Operating the liftgate and locking a wheelchair in place—or lifting a child into or out of a wheelchair—is hard work. If this is a regular part of your day, you are bound to wind up with an injury. One of my clients even suffered a major injury when a wheelchair ran over her foot.
- Lifting heavy loads. Bus drivers who take kids on field trips often have to deal with heavy coolers of lunches and bins of backpacks. Lifting and moving these loads can do a number on your back and shoulders.
- Cleaning the bus. Wiping down seats, sweeping the floor, and even power-washing the outside of the bus are some of a bus driver's duties. These tasks all have the potential for injury from repetitive motion, tripping and falling, or twisting a joint.
- Inspecting the bus. Drivers make sure the bus is safe to drive. Daily inspections involve checking the tires and lights and refilling fluids. These tasks often require the driver to climb up and down ladders. This is physically demanding work that can cause serious injuries.
- Emergencies. Whether it is a drill or a real evacuation, drivers must help kids off the bus in an emergency. This might require lifting kids down the stairs or out the back exit. If the bus catches on fire, the driver takes care of the kids before herself.
- Difficult passengers. We ask an awful lot of school bus drivers. Along with operating a vehicle, drivers also have to deal with kids, who can be loud, rambunctious, and even aggressive. Physically restraining badly behaved kids might be necessary, and passengers have assaulted high school bus drivers occasionally.
I have probably only scratched the surface of the ways bus drivers can be injured, but you get the idea. Driving the big yellow Blue Bird can be hazardous!
Ohio Workers' Comp Covers Bus Drivers
The bus drivers I have helped had many things in common, mainly their love for their job and their kiddos, despite the aches, pains, surgeries, and disability it caused. I admire this passion and commitment, and I was proud to help my clients get the disability benefits they deserved. If you are a bus driver injured in the line of duty, give my office a call. We'd be happy to talk to you about your options.