Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has long had a tenuous relationship with safety, seeming to prefer putting its money and energy into remaining the busiest airport in the world. On September 25th, 2019, one employee lost his life amid the bustle of this air traffic hub.
The worker, an employee of the luggage transport company G2 Secure Staff, was helping to guide a luggage vehicle toward the loading ramp of a United Airlines jet, when he was crushed between the vehicle and the ramp. A crew member reportedly shouted for the driver to stop when it became clear what was happening, and the victim was rushed to a nearby hospital, but he did not survive.
OSHA and United Airlines are both still investigating, but based on the nature of the accident, it’s possible to make some educated guesses about what happened here.
Loading Ramps Are Dangerous and Poorly Regulated Working Environments
One study of airplane ramp safety, conducted in 2007 by the U.S Government Accountability Office, identified several key factors that make working around these ramps so dangerous, all of which very much still apply today.
- Time pressure — In any job, excessive pressure to hurry leads to stress, corner-cutting, lapses in judgement, and accidents. In jobs that involve operating heavy machinery, those accidents cost lives. Employees at Hartsfield-Jackson must support a massive volume of passenger traffic, and being expected to keep up with that traffic without adequate support can easily lead to fatalities like this one.
- Inconsistent or insufficient safety rules — The American Association of Airport Executives notes that, in spite of the safety hazards that plane ramps pose, they’re not subject to much formal regulation. In the absence of clear industry standards, individual airlines are left to write their own safety rules, if any, for their luggage transport contractors. Those contractors, like G2 Secure Staff, often service more than one airline. The contradictions between these multiple sets of rules make it difficult for employees to understand and consistently adhere to safety best practices.
- High employee turnover — Keeping up with fast-paced demands while following complicated and confusing safety regulations is even harder for employees who are new to their jobs, especially if their training comes from a coworker who may not have much experience themselves. High turnover most often results from low pay and poor working conditions, so better treatment for luggage carriers could go a long way toward improving safety as well as job satisfaction.
It’s disheartening that these same problems are continuing to cause injury and death 13 years after the Accountability Office publicly outlined them, but Hartsfield-Jackson still has the ability and obligation to address them in moving forward.
Hartsfield-Jackson Needs to Do Better by Its Employees And Contractors
Like any property owner, Hartsfield-Jackson has a duty to provide a safe, healthy working environment for everyone on its premises, regardless of how dangerous their jobs have historically been. Where airlines can’t provide effective safety guidelines individually, a standard must be set across the facility, if not across the industry. If you or someone you love has been involved in an on-the-job accident at Hartsfield Jackson, The Stoddard Firm can help you hold this giant of aviation accountable.