United Airlines Inc. allegedly has exposed ground operation workers at the Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., to safety hazards, causing OSHA to issue 16 citations and propose penalties of $101,300.
The alleged OSHA safety violations were found during a January 2014 inspection that is part of an OSHA effort to focus on workplaces with high rates of injuries and illness. The inspection found three repeat violations that had been discovered by OSHA during inspections in 2011 and 2013.
“United Airlines should immediately address these safety violations to prevent worker injuries and ensure a safe workplace,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “These workers face electrical hazards, falls, and being struck-by objects and equipment daily. Their safety is critical. Airline ground operations safety is of vital importance, not only to the workers, but to the millions of Americans who depend on air travel every day.”
According to OSHA, many airline workers may be unaware of the potential hazards in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to injury. OSHA has a Safety and Health Topics page dedicated to information about safety and health in the airline industry. It offers information about recognizing and controlling hazards that may be present in the airline industry and offers guidance on what to do if hazards are spotted.
Carrying a $55,000 penalty, the alleged repeat violations were cited for United Continental Holdings Inc.’s failing to clearly mark exits located inside facilities where food service employees, baggage handlers and gate agents worked; keep unused openings closed on an electrical box where conduit or knockout plugs were located; and use extension cords as a substitute for required permanent wiring at Newark Liberty International Airport. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
United was cited for nine alleged serious violations, with a $46,300 penalty. The serious violations included exposing aircraft mechanics to fall hazards while working from a ground support vehicle and struck-by hazards by storing materials –such as aircraft parts including landing gear tires and aircraft struts and fasteners –on storage racks that were damaged and not anchored. United Airlines also allegedly failed to:
- Properly guard equipment, store materials and dispose of waste materials.
- Ensure exits were unobstructed and wide enough and place directional signs in areas where exits were not apparent.
- Ensure employees operating tugs to transport luggage used seat belts.
- Use power strips according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Use ladders for purposes intended by the manufacturer, and remove damaged ladders from service.
A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
Three other safety violations involved failing to maintain clean and orderly work areas, and not providing fire extinguisher training for ground operation workers and welders. Additionally, powered industrial trucks in need of repair were not taken out of service, and placards on the trucks were illegible.
United Airlines has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, ask for an informal conference with Hoffman or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.