Ramp and Hangar Safety
Aviation can be dangerous business, but a look at hangar and ramp accidents shows the costs can be high, even deadly. Training, attitude and reasonable expectations can reduce the number of incidents. Discussion/Analysis:
For all glamour, aviation is a dangerous business. Pilots and mechanics are well aware of this risks and they are highly trained to manage them. But the same can not be said for many of the ground support workers in aviation ramps and hangars. The lack of standard approach to training, the persistent time pressures which many of these workers face, their congested and sometimes confusing workspaces, and their physically demanding but ill-paid positions can create a dangerous environment. The industry recognizes this and is taking steps to improve it. There are major obstacle to understanding the scope of the ramp safety problem and thus improving it; government data is incomplete and privately collected data is considered ownership. The cost of ramp accidents is high. According to the Flight Safety Foundation, approximately 27,000 ramp accidents and incidents occurred annually worldwide and around 243,000 people are injured - about nine per 1,000 departures. The cost to major airlines was estimated to be at least $10 billion a year. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) calculates the direct costs of airplane damage to be about $4 billion a year. IATA regards the origin or cause of the problem to "minimal oversight" of ground service providers in the selection and licensing process, in system implementation, training and development, and in auditing, reporting and compliance procedures. In a report published in 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) described the typical ramp as a "small, congested area in which departing and arriving aircraft as serviced by ramp workers, including baggage, catering and fueling personnel...the presence of a large number of people utilizing equipment in a relatively small area, often under considerable time pressure, creates an environment in which injuries and fatalities can occur." As an example of what can happen , GAO cited the December 2005 scare at Alaska Airlines, when an MD80 experienced sudden cabin depressurization as a result of an unreported incident in which a ground vehicle had punctured the aircraft fuselage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. workers supporting the air transport sector in jobs such as airport operation and the servicing, repairing, maintaining, storing, and ferrying of aircraft, suffered 2,780 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in 2006. The data showed an upward trend from 2003 (2,680) and 2005 (2,470). Many of the injuries in this category occurred to service workers, such as ticketing agents and bellhops, who lift heavy bags but don't work on the ramp. In spite of that, it's easy to tell, even from this randomly selected survey data, that serious injuries are commonplace among workers such as aircraft mechanics, vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, and material movers. Among the most frequent types of injuries were: sprains and strains; bruises and contusions; fractures; and cuts, lacerations and punctures. Fatalities also occur. U.S. Government Accountability Office found that of 29 fatal ramp accidents ( across all sectors of aviation ) from 2001 through 2006, seventeen involved ground workers, eight were passengers and four were pilots. This misfortunes typically occurred when employees were struck by objects such as vehicles, or were crushed , or fell. Of the eight passengers who died, five were struck by propellers. Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) database is also full of complaints about commercial aviation ramp safety, ranging from poor signage and lighting to inappropriate or foolish marshaling and the parking of equipment inside protected areas. Ramp workers were sometimes cited for...
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