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Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca

Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers & Illinois Injury Lawyers

Lower your risk of ground vehicle-related injury with these helpful solutions

| May 22, 2015 | Worker Comp Blog |

Many people may not realize just how dangerous working on the tarmac at an airport can be. Unlike vehicle traffic on the nation’s roadways, getting airplanes ready for travel can be disorderly and poorly maintained. An airplane accident attorney understands that this may contribute to workers being involved in accidents.

One significant source of accidents on the tarmac come from ground vehicles. These large trucks are usually tasked with preparing a plane for flight. This can include such tasks as unloading and loading baggage, taking workers to and from a plane, and restocking a plane with necessary supplies and equipment. All of these vehicle must work in harmony and under strict safety rules, or deadly accidents can occur. Workers must often be hyper-vigilant in preventing accidents. Those who want to reduce their chances of being involved in a ground vehicle-related accident should consider the following tips:

Remove all distractions

When ground vehicle drivers are distracted, they become dangerous weapons capable of causing all those around them serious injury. Drivers are considered distracted when they engage in any activity that takes their minds off the task of driving. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Airline Ground Safety Alliance, the most common forms of distraction among airport tarmac workers are texting and talking on cell phones, and listening to headphones. Although it may be acceptable to listen to music while driving on regular roadways, airport employees are at a severe disadvantage if they cannot hear the noises all around them. They can either inadvertently cause an accident, such as backing over another worker, or be the one injured because they are not paying attention.

To keep themselves and their coworkers as safe as possible, workers should never take any personal electronic devices onto the ramp or roadways. Whether or not they are the one driving a ground vehicle does not matter. Keeping all of these devices at home or in the car can prevent accidents and may save lives. All workers should always follow company policy when using company issued devices that they are required to have on the job.

Perform a pre-operation inspection

Before workers do anything with belt loaders, they should first perform a pre-operation inspection. This includes the following:

  • Check for operation and safety defects.
  • Tire check, including looking for low pressure and secure nuts.
  • Check levels of primary engine fluids.
  • Monitor fuel or battery levels.
  • Look for foreign objects and debris on and around the equipment

The vehicle should also be inspected for any loose or hanging material that could cause a problem.

Belt loader operational check

Once workers have completed a pre-operation inspection, they should turn on the vehicle and perform an operational check. This includes checking the horn, headlights, brake lights, and steering. The transmission gears should also be checked on every vehicle prior to use.

The danger of belt loaders

An airplane accident attorney often sees clients who have been injured in connection with a belt loader. Belt loaders are constantly on the tarmac because they play an integral part in preparing a plane for departure. However, they can be incredibly dangerous machines for workers who are not properly trained or who choose to act irresponsibly around the equipment. Workers may leave them on and unattended or they may collide with other vehicles, workers or airplanes. There is also a serious danger of worker’s body parts getting caught between the aircraft fuselage and the end of the conveyor.

Staying safe around the machines

To avoid these situations, workers can take extra precautions. After using a belt loader, workers should make sure it is in neutral or park with the parking brake engaged before anyone gets off of the vehicle. The loader should always be chocked if the engine is running without a driver. Additionally, operators should always wear seatbelts while driving a belt loader unless they are operating in the aircraft’s footprint.

Using proper speeds can help prevent deadly airplane accidents from occurring. Operators should always follow posted speeds for driving on ramps and approach the aircraft at a walking pace. When in doubt, operators should use a walking pace, especially when operating in an area that is filled with other vehicles and ground service equipment.

General rules for all ground vehicles              

Some rules for ground vehicles are universally applicable. Drivers should always remain seated while vehicles are in motion, and if there is no seat available for an individual to sit in, they must wait or ride on a vehicle that has a vacancy. All body parts, including arms and legs, should always stay within the operating plane of the vehicle. This is particularly important for those operating belt loaders. Additionally, no matter how late an airplane is, workers always need to remember to put safety above all else. It is only when workers do this that they can protect one another from the hazards of this inherently dangerous workplace and reduce ground vehicle-related injuries and fatalities.

According to the Flight Safety Foundation, an estimated 27,000 ramp accidents and incidents occur each year around the world, causing 243,000 injuries in the process. That equates to about nine accidents for every 1,000 flights. This staggering rate of accidents is unacceptable for the safety of the workers involved. Airport or airline employees who have been involved in an accident at work should contact an airplane accident attorney immediately. Airlines are notorious for minimizing their financial obligations following an accident, so workers may have a better chance at receiving compensation for their injuries with the help of counsel who specialize in aviation accident matters.