Most jobs carry some risk of injury or illness. Of course, certain occupations pose a higher injury risk than others, but employers can take steps to ensure that their employees are safe. Some injuries, such as those caused by workplace violence, may seem less predictable, however. As such, there may be questions about what duty employers have to protect workers in this scenario.

In addition to internal workplace policies, laws can be passed to bolster workplace safety. A law, set to go into effect on Aug. 1 in Minnesota, does just that. The goal of the statute is to protect city bus drivers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area from assaults by ratcheting up penalties for doing so.

One bus driver, who has been operating a route in Minneapolis for five years, recalls instances where he has been spit on by hostile passengers and — more concerning — situations when he has been caught up in fights on the bus. Although the focus of the law is primarily on minor assaults, it can also help to protect against major injuries sustained during a fight or other violent incidents on a bus.

Although the policymakers hope increased legal penalties for assaulting transit employees will deter violence, the employer may still be able to take measures to support and protect drivers from harm.

When workplace violence can’t be avoided, workers’ compensation benefits may be in line. Since bus drivers are technically public employees, they may not be covered in the same way as those employed by a private company, but there may still be options to help ease the financial stress caused by a work-related injury. Above all, those who are hurt in the normal course of employment are generally entitled to compensation for their injuries.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio News, “Bus drivers get new protections from assaults under new law,” Jon Collins, July 29, 2013