Along with airlines, the airports in Atlanta and other cities in Georgia play crucial roles in the health, safety and well-being of the millions of international and domestic travelers. However, the men and women who work as the ground crews face many safety hazards that might not receive enough attention. Airport employers and the private contractors who provide the workers are responsible for the safety and health of these workers.
If you are one of the workers who provide services like wheelchair assistance, cabin cleaning, terminal cleaning and baggage handling, you face many risks of injury and harm to your health every day. However, every one of the hazardous conditions you face is preventable, and you have the right to report violations of the Occupational Safety and Health regulations.
Typical hazards faced by ground crews
The following dangers compromise the health and safety of ground crew workers:
- Chemical hazards: Terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants work with potentially hazardous disinfectants and cleaning solutions without chemical safety training and the necessary personal protective equipment.
- Blood-borne Pathogens: Wheelchair attendants and cabin cleaners face frequent exposure to body fluids, blood, urine, vomit and other potentially infectious pathogens like the Ebola, HIV and Hepatitis B viruses.
- Musculoskeletal disorders: Heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching overhead and bending are all ergonomic risk factors that threaten the health and safety of all ground crew members. Handling heavy baggage, carrying bags of garbage to the dumpsters and pushing passengers in wheelchairs while also managing their luggage are all par for the course for airport workers.
- Extreme noise exposure: Without ear protection, the excessive noise of aircraft engines cause hearing loss, psychological and physical stress, reduced productivity, and interference with communication and hearing warning sounds.
- Occupational stress: Heavy workloads, shift work, long hours with inadequate breaks and other job-related concerns can become overwhelming.
- Extreme temperatures: Airport workers face extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter. Ground crew workers typically wear the same uniforms throughout the year without consideration of the temperatures, and cabin cleaners face additional risks when they navigate icy ramps during the winter.
- Carbon monoxide and diesel emissions: Continuous exposure to low levels of these fumes can cause lightheadedness, headache, impaired judgment, fatigue and more, and excessive exposure could be deadly. Diesel emissions are carcinogenic, and carbon monoxide is a deadly poison — both of which threaten the safety of ground crew workers.
Regardless of whether you work for the airport company or a contractor, you are entitled to work in a safe environment. However, if you become ill due to conditions at your workplace, or if you suffer a work-related injury, you can pursue financial assistance through workers’ compensation. You could use the services of an experienced attorney to help you claim benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.