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Assisting a Person to Transit in a Vehicle - SWI 001 2017


This information is a guide only for use by non-government organisations and service providers as a training tool (supplementary to training) and is not intended as medical or professional advice. Users must seek appropriate medical or professional service. The State Government of South Australia accepts no responsibility for the suitability or completeness of the information and expressly disclaims all liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any of the information.

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Stop, Think, Assess, Review

Stop before you begin, you must review the support plan of the client being assisted.

Think about the task, any equipment needed and the readiness of the client. Think about other options if this task cannot be done safely.

Assess the client by watching/talking to them to see if they are willing and able to participate in the task.

Review other options available if client not ready for task. Talk to supervisor/manager about other options.

Potential Hazards

  1. Driver or passenger injury from persons who are exhibiting behaviours of concern.
  2. Driver distraction and risk of accident.
  3. Potential of damage to vehicle.
  4. Potential of risks to other road users, public safety hazards, for example, in the event that a person may undo seatbelts, including other passengers' belts, and may attempt to exit the vehicle while it is in motion.

Safety Provisions

To prevent risk of injury to workers or clients during this manual task:

  1. Follow all steps of this Safe Work Instruction (SWI).
  2. Ensure staff are familiar with any vehicle modifications (these may or may not include perspex driver protective screen, covers for door latches, perspex windows, independent internal key release of sliding door, or seatbelt buckle guards, etc).
  3. Communicate with person and other workers at every step of this task.
  4. Review vehicle modifications and risk management processes when inducting unfamiliar staff.
  5. Ensure access to house mobile phone.
  6. Ensure that the contact list in the mobile phone is up-to-date, such as supervisor contact details, etc.

Note: All modifications to Disability Services’ vehicles accord with Australian Design Rules and, where required, modifications are inspected and plated by Department of Transport, Planning and Infrastructure (DPTI), Vehicle Standards Unit.


Set Up

  1. Assess the person’s level of anxiety/behaviours prior to leaving. Where a person is upset or agitated, or their behaviour is deemed unsafe, they are not to be transported. In such circumstances staff need to seek alternative transport arrangements or postpone the outing and plan for a later time when person is calm.
  2. Refer to person’s support plan for specific behaviour support procedures.
  3. It may help to plan the trip with the person and discuss the route and destination by using a pictorial story. When possible, plan to take the most familiar route, with regular stops, and be aware of safe places to pull over, if required.
  4. Refer also to instructions particular to the vehicle.
  5. Where the vehicle is fitted with a wheelchair lifter and wheelchair securing points, staff must have completed the DHS Travel Safe training (refer to the DHS Business Compliance Unit for details).
  6. Notify supervisor/manager of the detail of the intended travel including purpose of travel (particularly relevant when travelling out of the metro area).
  7. Ensure the house mobile is fully charged and carried on your person.
  8. Ensure appropriate staff-to-client ratio, as accords with safe practice.
  9. Follow any transportation checklist/seat allocation instructions.
  10. Utilise approved seatbelt clip/buckle guard where appropriate.
  11. Ensure person is dressed in comfortable clothing with layers that they can remove if they become too hot. Ensure they have ready access to a drink bottle, personal bag, etc. Note: All loose items such as drink bottles, handbags, etc, must be safely stowed away (in the provided attached stow away bag or under the seat). Loose items have the potential to be ‘missiles’ in the event of hard braking, sharp turns and accidents.

Note: In the event of a long drive, arrangements could be made for the driver to call a contact person when a long distance or remote destination has been reached, ‘to check in’, especially if there are concerns.


  1. Ensure vehicle has a comfortable temperature and air flow to suit the weather conditions. Run air conditioner or open the window as appropriate.
  2. Adjust radio volume to suit the needs of the person. Make sure to include the person in conversation.
  3. If a person becomes agitated, staff are to mitigate risks by implementing the person’s support plan.
    1. Calmly pull vehicle over to a safe place, as soon as it is safe to do so, and put the hazard lights on.
    2. Turn the vehicle off and place in park.
    3. It is important, when a person’s behaviour escalates that staff take efforts to keep people safe – both staff and other passengers.
    4. Stay calm, use a lowered voice tone.
    5. Acknowledge the person’s distress. Try to find out what the person needs and resolve the issue, for example, ask if they require the toilet or food or a drink. Talk to the person in a reassuring way. Respond appropriately.
    6. Assist the person to add or remove a layer of clothing if they appear cold or hot.
    7. If the person is attempting to remove seatbelt during travel, calmly remind them that they are being unsafe by taking the belt off while the car is in motion, or by trying to open the door. State the safety concern calmly, for example, “Your seatbelt keeps you safe, Alex”.
    8. Try to use diversion/distraction techniques, such as discussing the next task or activity you will be doing. Try different topics of conversation, use humour, talk about something out of the window or a song on the radio. Provide ongoing interaction and reassurance. Note: There is a degree of judgement needed here, dependent on the person. Staff may find that with some people we support it may be more effective just to allow them to calm down themselves, without saying much. With some people any responses negative or positive could agitate them more. Others do respond well to someone identifying their needs by asking.
    9. Where appropriate (check restrictive practice), maintain engaged child safety locks to doors and windows to prevent an agitated person from leaving the vehicle and running into the road in an escalated state. Ensure the vehicle has adequate cooling and ventilation and leave air conditioner on.
    10. Take steps to remove passengers to safety, away from the person with escalating behaviours. Maintain a safe distance. Explain to the agitated person that you will be stepping out to give them more space. Always stay close to the vehicle and maintain a visual line of sight.
    11. Keep people away from the person and hazards arising, or any damage to vehicle (such as broken perspex/glass/other potential projectiles). This may mean exiting the vehicle. Give the agitated person time and space to calm.
    12. Summon help from supervisor and other staff as necessary.
    13. If person does not settle, return to accommodation site. Explain to the person that you will be returning home.
    14. Call emergency services (000) for police to attend if a person’s safety is at imminent risk. Provide a description of the situation and then contact the shift supervisor to inform them.
    15. In the event of a vehicle accident, staff are to take necessary measures to safeguard passengers and follow the direction of emergency services personnel.
    16. Once the person arrives at the destination, or returns home, they may still be distressed or exhausted. Ensure that they are welcomed into the environment and offer them something to eat and drink. Engage in a reassuring and familiar activity or conversation.
    17. Refer to the person’s support plan for specific information. Ensure that any incident is recorded in the person’s progress notes and reported in RiskMan, identifying any antecedents, possible triggers and follow up actions taken.


  • Make sure the person is comfortable and secure.
  • Document any incident and report to supervisor immediately.
  • Conduct post-incident review and consider what risk mitigation steps could be taken in the event of a recurrence.
  • Where staff face ongoing issues managing behaviours of concern with particular individuals, they may wish to refer to the Positive Behaviour Support Team (PBST) for further specific advice.

Attribution: Department of Human Services, the Government of South Australia, "Assisting a Person to Transit in a Vehicle - SWI 001 2017", Sourced on 23rd Oct 2021, ('

Page last updated : 12 Aug 2021

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