Bus driver fired after taking hands off wheel to use his iPad
Published 26/08/2015 | 02:30
A bus driver for a private coach operator was sacked after using his iPad while driving his bus at 100kmph on a motorway.
CCTV cameras on the Aircoach recorded driver Sean Purcell take his two hands off the steering wheel to take out his iPad.
Mr Purcell took an unfair dismissal case before an Employment Appeals Tribunal after being fired from his job following the incident on July 22, 2013.
The tribunal heard that the empty bus was travelling at 100kmph on the M50 at the time of the incident. The CCTV footage also showed that on two or three occasions Mr Purcell did not have either hand on the steering wheel.
The footage, which was shown to the tribunal, 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.
A motorist who witnessed Mr Purcell using the iPad while driving contacted Aircoach to make a complaint.
A driver-trainer with Aircoach told the tribunal that Mr Purcell was not driving safely and that he was "horrified" after viewing the CCTV footage.
He immediately informed the firm's operations manager.
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". Mr Purcell was suspended on full pay on July 24, 2013, pending an enquiry into the matter.
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 and it was his view that it was acceptable to use an iPad when driving. He said he was fully in control of the vehicle he was driving."
Mr Purcell appealed the decision to dismiss him but the firm's managing director, Allen Parker, later upheld the decision.
He told the tribunal that it was apparent from the 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".
He said there had been a breakdown of trust and confidence in Mr Purcell.
In the tribunal's ruling, published yesterday, it dismissed Mr Purcell's claim for unfair dismissal and said Aircoach had acted reasonably at all times. It said Mr Purcell's actions "constituted a serious safety risk".