Safety from a Ramp Worker’s Perspective

A walk through the methods of Transport Workers Union of America

Safety is sometimes taken for granted. This should never happen; it should be a lifestyle. In this article, I want to discuss the way we at the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) think about safety.

Frequent checks
Working on the ramp at American Airlines in Chicago has its challenges. Using weekly safety compliancy checks, we look at how ramp crews work inbound and outbound flights, focusing on helping ramp workers perform their jobs safely. These checks also bring to light any hazards that may arise. After each check, a TWU safety steward discusses the outcome with the ramp crews for which the safety check was just performed, highlighting areas that need to be refreshed and complimenting areas that are performed correctly. American Airlines also performs compliancy checks that blanket the TWU checks. Their compliancy checks cover different points of view, allowing us to cover all aspects and avoid having any hazards fall through the cracks. The compliancy checks from both the TWU and American are used as a teaching tool to help ramp crews work more safely.

Another safety program is the weekly TWU non-powered safety checks. These checks target areas on non-powered equipment such as bag carts, ULD dollies, ULDs and tow-bars that could cause injury to anyone using them. We also perform weekly TWU powered safety checks. These checks target areas of powered equipment such as tractors, push-out tugs, cargo veyors and ULD loaders, as well as other forms of powered equipment. Working with the automotive department, we remove the equipment from service and have it repaired in a timely manner, thus eliminating a hazard from the ramp area.

Through safety walks, which I perform with management and other unions, we talk with pilots, look for FOD, identify potential hazards on the ramp and refresh veteran crews on safety issues. Speaking with the veteran crews allows them to communicate any safety concerns they have while on the ramp. These are just a few examples of the programs Local 512 safety stewards and I perform weekly.

Communication is a big part of our safety program. With the use of the TWU’s Local Web site, which you can access at in the workplace or at home, our president posts a weekly message as well as safety topics on the “Hot News” link. Other topics of interest also may be accessed on this link. One example is “Safety Alerts.” These alerts, which we receive from American Airlines, provide important safety tips. They are also posted in high employee-traffic areas such as bus stops, vending machine rooms, locker rooms, time clocks and gate-ready rooms. The alerts cover other departments, not just the ramp, and allow for quick reference.

With the help of “Partnership For Safety,” which is a joint effort between management, unions and employees, we focus on personal safety at home and work to prevent injuries. Through monthly PFS meetings, we communicate with all departments. I would like to touch briefly on some of the meetings and my involvement.

The first is the Joint Safety Committee or JSC, to which I bring safety concerns from the ramp that need to be addressed. The committee is attended by employees from all departments and reports to the Central Safety Committee. Next is the Central Safety Committee, to which I bring any safety concerns from the JSC that need the help of the city or contractors to complete. The committee is attended by department heads and is chaired by the station vice president of American Airlines.

I also attend the Investigative Committee where we discuss injury reports from all departments. We look for root causes as to why there was an injury. Finally, I attend the Policy and Procedures Committee where we look at root causes from the Investigative Committee and discuss policy and procedure changes that help prevent injuries in the future.

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