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Death of LAX Airport Worker Leads to Cal/OSHA Citations

Aug. 20, 2014
Cal/OSHA has fined Menzies Aviation $77,250 for alleged safety violations after an investigation into the February death of a worker at Los Angeles International Airport.

Cal/OSHA has fined Menzies Aviation $77,250 for alleged safety violations after an investigation into the February death of a worker at Los Angeles International Airport. The worker was thrown from the vehicle he was operating without a seatbelt.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation determined that Menzies Aviation’s safety policy on the operation of tow tractors in and around LAX did not require, and in fact discouraged, the use of safety belts in certain areas of the airport, according to the agency. Tow tractors are used to pull luggage and cargo trailers throughout the airport.

Menzies was issued citations for one regulatory, one serious and three serious-accident-related violations of state safety standards.

“This fatality could have been prevented with a well-thought-out and implemented safety plan, as is required for all worksites in California,” said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees Cal/OSHA.

On Feb. 21, Cesar Valenzuela, a 51-year-old ramp agent employed by Menzies, was driving a tow tractor to pick up cargo at the airport. He later was found with his head pinned underneath one of the tires.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that a portion of the vehicle’s seatbelt was missing on the tow tractor. State safety regulations require the use of a restraint system such as seatbelts when originally installed on tow tractors and industrial trucks. The employer’s vehicle inspection procedures also were inadequate, according to the agency.

“Employers must follow and adhere to applicable safety regulations, especially when workers are operating equipment such as tow tractors,” said Acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

The Cal/OSHA safety inspector investigating the accident at LAX noted that numerous employees were observed operating tow tractors without using seatbelts or other restraints. Menzies Aviation’s written safety program only required workers to use seatbelts when traveling on marked roadways or vehicle service roads, not when traveling to adjacent airport gates or aircraft parking areas.

Menzies Aviation, which has its headquarters in Scotland and operates in more than 30 countries, also inaccurately reported the fatal accident to Cal/OSHA as a heart attack, according to Cal/OSHA. Regulations require employers to accurately report work-related fatalities within eight hours to Cal/OSHA.

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