herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Bus driver sacked after using his iPad while driving his bus at 100kmph on the M50

Transport

A BUS driver for a private coach operator was sacked after using his iPad while driving his bus at 100kmph on the M50.

CCTV cameras on the Aircoach vehicle recorded driver Sean Purcell taking his two hands off the steering wheel to take out his iPad on July 22, 2013.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) hearing into Mr Purcell's claim for unfair dismissal was told that Mr Purcell was driving the empty bus "at 100kmph".

CCTV recorded Mr Purcell with an iPad in one hand and his other hand on the steering wheel. The footage also showed Mr Purcell on two or three occasions not having either hand on the steering wheel.

The CCTV footage opened to the EAT showed Mr Purcell removing both hands from the steering wheel and steering the coach with his elbow while he activated the iPad.

He then proceeded to drive the coach with only one hand on the steering wheel, while he held the iPad to his ear with the other hand.

Aircoach was alerted to Mr Purcell's use of the iPad while driving by a motorist who witnessed what was occurring.

A driver-trainer with Aircoach, identified as AMcM, told the tribunal that Mr Purcell was not driving safely and that he was "horrified" after viewing the CCTV footage.

Concerned

Aircoach's Operations Manager, identified only as AK, viewed the CCTV footage of the incident "and became seriously concerned from a health and safety point of view".

She said that Mr Purcell "had put both himself and others in danger". AK suspended Mr Purcell with full pay on July 24, 2013, pending an inquiry.

At a investigation meeting on July 25, Mr Purcell said he was "listening to an audio radio on the iPad and that the coach radio was not working and there was wind coming from the door of the coach".

Mr Purcell "thought the company should have no issue as it was not a mobile phone he was using".

At a follow-up meeting on July 29, Mr Purcell "saw no serious breach of the safety policy in place, it was his view that it was acceptable to use an iPad when driving and he said he was fully in control of the vehicle he was driving".

Mr Purcell appealed internally the decision to dismiss and the firm's MD Allen Parker told the tribunal that "it was apparent from the CCTV footage that Mr Purcell was significantly distracted and not fully concentrating on the road in front of him, which constituted a serious breach of health and safety procedures and endangered other road users".

In its ruling, the EAT dismissed Mr Purcell's claim for unfair dismissal, stating that substantial grounds existed justifying dismissal.

The EAT recorded that Mr Purcell's actions "constituted a serious safety risk and were in clear breach of company policies".

MD of Aircoach, Allen Parker said yesterday: "We welcome the decision by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Safety is our number one priority and our rules are there for the safety of our passengers, our drivers and for other road users."

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