If you've ever taken a flight to a local or international destination and looked out the window prior to your departure or just after your arrival, you more than likely saw airline workers driving baggage handling vehicles back and forth across the tarmac. However, if you thought that the only real risk of work injuries to these drivers was perhaps striking a plane rolling to or from its gate, you'd be wrong.
As it turns out, airline workers in charge of operating baggage handling vehicles are sometimes involved in serious accidents caused by a variety of factors. Compounding problems further is the fact that many of these baggage handling vehicles -- which can travel at very high rates of speed -- are not equipped with seatbelts.
In fact, back in February 2011, Delta Airlines was cited and fined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for safety violations involving an employee who was killed when he was ejected from a baggage handling vehicle. Specifically, the agency punished Delta for failing to provide its workers with the necessary personal protective equipment -- seatbelts.
Interestingly, OSHA and Delta announced earlier this week that they had reached a settlement/compliance agreement concerning the installation of seatbelts in baggage handling vehicles.
Under the terms of the compliance agreement, Delta has exactly two years to outfit all of its baggage handling vehicles with seatbelts and to train its workforce on how to properly use them.
Specifically, the seatbelt installation and training will take place during the first year, covering 90 Delta airport sites across the nation, 16,000 employees and 6,000 baggage handling vehicles. In the second year, Delta will enforce the policy, and retain the services of safety consultants to monitor progress and report back to OSHA.
"OSHA's corporate-wide settlement agreements are highly effective tools for ensuring that companies address hazards that can injure or kill their workers," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. "This kind of widespread change within corporations can go a long way toward keeping workers across the country safe and healthy at the end of every workday."
It is worth noting that OSHA is now alerting all other airlines of the need to prevent serious or fatal work injuries by installing seatbelts on baggage handling vehicles via hazard letter.
Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...
This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
EHS Today, "Buckle up: Delta Air Lines, OSHA sign seatbelt compliance agreement for baggage vehicles," Laura Walter, April 16, 2012