At Schwarz & Schwarz the safety of airport workers is front and center in what we do each and every day. The Wall Street Journal recognizes these dangers in their most recent article, “More Workers Are Getting Hurt on the Tarmac.” Subscribers can read the full article here. For those that don’t have access, we’ll summarize some of the issues that are faced day in and day out because these are the issues that hit close to home for us and our clients.
The article highlights recent tragic accidents including the death of Courtney Edwards at Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama after she was sucked into a turbine on the runway and Michal Ingraham, a worker at American Airlines in Austin,Texas who died when the brakes on his tug failed and accelerated into an airport jet bridge.
These stories and others in the article highlight what most of us already know – that a surge in air travel this summer, coupled with staffing issues and inadequate training, are causing an increase in injuries at airports all over the country. According to OSHA data, rates of injuries per 100 employees that led to at least one day away from work increased 17% last year compared with pre-pandemic levels. More alarming is a reported 64% jump in ground-handling injuries by Southwest Airlines and a 54% increase from Unifi. From the article:
“Understaffed and inexperienced ground crews regularly didn’t receive adequate training for their roles…That problem has been compounded by a lack of investment during the pandemic that left many workers using faulty heavy machinery. For ground workers, scenes on the tarmac and in baggage rooms have often been chaotic.”
This aligns with what we’re seeing here at Schwarz & Schwarz, with an increase in cases and more workers reaching out to us with their own stories.
More concerning is that this trend is likely going to get worse. From the WSJ article:
About 60% of ground-handling professionals across the globe don’t have enough qualified staff to ensure smooth operations, according to a May survey by the International Air Transport Association, a trade body. More than a third expected staffing shortages to continue beyond 2023.
So, what can workers do to minimize their risks and build a safer workplace? According to the attorneys at Schwarz & Schwarz, it starts with communication, “Airport workers need to speak up and call out areas of concern to their supervisors and union leadership. Demanding that their employers provide adequate training is a must and one way that these terrible incidents can be prevented.”
Here at Schwarz & Schwarz, we’re constantly monitoring OSHA, airline, and trade organizations’ data to identify patterns and trends about common injury types, equipment issues, and other factors that can directly impact our clients and those we serve. If you have concerns, have been injured, or just want to understand your rights, we want to help. Get in touch below.