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Airline Employees, OSHA Team Up for Safer Workplaces

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | December 20, 2012 | Comments Off on Airline Employees, OSHA Team Up for Safer Workplaces

Airline Employees, OSHA Team Up for Safer Workplaces

With the holidays in full swing, it’s important to remember safety as we travel across the country to visit friends and relatives.

Without the dedicated and hardworking employees working ground operations at the nation’s airports, getting home for the holidays would be impossible. But did you know these workers face some of the highest risks for work accidents, injuries and fatalities? Some of the incidents most commonly reported include being struck by objects and falling.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training and guidelines protect the health and physical welfare of workers across all industries. Those who work ground support at airports now have strengthened a work safety partnership with OSHA, and the renewed alliance will focus on the dangers that can arise from the operation of aviation ground support equipment such as aircraft tugs and tow tractors.

The Airline Ground Safety Panel, a labor/industry partnership, represents some 350,000 workers from 11 airline companies and three labor unions. The membership total makes up about 85 percent of the industry.

“Our continued alliance with the Airline Ground Safety Panel will focus on preventing worker injuries caused by slips, trips and falls and being struck by objects,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, via a press release. “We look forward to working with the panel to educate and train employers and workers on preventing workplace injuries.”

The alliance with the AGSP will focus on creating a safer workplace, such as examining mishaps associated with the operation of airport ground-safety equipment. In addition, the alliance will carry out studies on how to enhance ground personnel safety, tackle hazard communications, and address issues related to the United Nations-sponsored Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

The renewal of the alliance, which will run for another two years, was welcomed by the three labor unions in the panel, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, and the Transport Workers Union of America. Besides the labor unions, Airlines for America, a panel participant representing the airline industry, also praised the alliance, saying that the airlines are enthusiastic about being a part of the voluntary program with OSHA and the labor unions to boost safety awareness among airline employees.

The alliance between OSHA and the AGSP is formally under OSHA’s Alliance Program, an initiative where OSHA partners with business and educational organizations, trade and professional groups, community groups and faith-based entities to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. Each alliance develops tools to help the organization comply with safety protocols and resources to orient employers and employees on their responsibilities and their rights.

An example of a commonly identified threat to ground operations workers is with the belt loader that loads luggage onto an airplane. Hazards identified include:

  • Objects falling from the conveyor belt into the open operator compartment
  • Objects falling off the side of the conveyor
  • Objects falling off the lower end of the conveyor

Possible solutions developed through the OSHA and Airline Group Alliance include:

  • Wear appropriate footwear at all times
  • Center objects on the belt to prevent them from falling
  • Employees should not stand near or walk around a belt loader conveyor while it’s in operation unless directly involved in the on load or off load process
  • Provide adequate spacing between objects when placing them on the conveyor
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