For those who find US highways to be chaotic and full of activity, imagine life on the ground crew at Denver International Airport (commonly referred to as DIA). Instead of cars and trucks zooming past, the runways have a mix of all manner of vehicles. Gigantic airplanes scorch past, demanding the most attention, but fuel trucks, cargo vehicles and maintenance carts all use the same pathways. There are rules in place for the different equipment but accidents still happen.
An airport ground crew is diverse: mechanics, engineers, technicians, baggage handlers and more share a work environment that’s open, expansive and always in motion. DIA is a hub for Southwest Airlines, Frontier, United, Delta, American, Alaska and more.
While the accident record is well documented for aircraft, the essential work on the ground remains out of the public’s lens, with little research specifically on ground crew safety. One study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information names vehicular accidents as the dominant issue, totaling 43 percent of injuries. Other sources were moving aircraft equipment and fires, along with more labor-related ailments such as back injury.
While injuries come from a variety of causes, the Department of Transportation released a report emphasizing a few major improvements for the industry. Ninety-eight percent of collision injuries occurred in medium and large hubs, the report notes: both workplaces with large and hectic operations.
The DOT determined the best way to improve safety is to address three conditions:
- Training and awareness of workers
- Use of high visibility uniforms
- Reduced speed
Behind the scenes at DIA
With a half dozen major airlines active in our centralized hub, it’s essential that employees get the training needed to prevent injuries. OSHA rules call for a safe work environment, regardless of field. Even with airplanes overhead and heavy luggage constantly on the go, the federal government requires a safe workplace with protections to minimize injury and protect workers.
It’s the employer’s role to provide that safe space, which includes not only safe equipment and regulations, but ample education and training to prevent accidents. The NCBI and DOT reports show that employers have room for improvement. All three major factors in vehicular accidents are easily addressed through policy guidelines and training programs.
It’s important to know that any job-related injury is eligible for workers’ compensation. Some airlines have a history of fighting claims, which is why consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney will help your case to make sure you’re compensated fairly for an injury that happened on their watch.