Safety from a Ramp Worker’s Perspective

A walk through the methods of Transport Workers Union of America

Education plays a strong role in safety at TWU and American. With the help of local management, we made safety videos to show proper operation of ramp equipment as well as helpful safety tips. Through new-hire class orientations, I discuss the importance of always being aware of your surroundings. I also speak about the use of sunscreens while working the ramp and proper PPE, or personal protecting equipment. Finally, we discuss the changing weather conditions.

Weathering the challenges
In Chicago, we are faced with extreme weather conditions throughout all four seasons, especially summer and winter. To help keep ramp crews hydrated in the summer heat, working with management and with help from a sports drink company, we created “O’Hare Oasis,” a truck specially equipped with coolers. On extremely hot days, this truck is driven in the ramp areas to provide cold water, as well as sports drinks, to anyone working the ramp. In addition, to avoid heat stress, management and TWU Local 512 worked with the City of Chicago to place an exemption on their city ordinance which covers safety vests on the ramp.

This exemption allows ramp workers to wear an orange reflective t-shirt as an alternative during the summer months. As for winter weather, we currently use a variety of styles of gloves, hats, boots and outer jackets and are always testing new products to further protect our ramp workers in extreme cold conditions.

The future of ramp safety
As for future plans, we are currently testing wireless headset communications while on pushback of departing aircraft. We are also testing “bum caps,” which are baseball-style hats with a hard outer shell for our facilities maintenance mechanics to prevent head injuries while working the baggage system. One of the most exciting plans is the “belly cooler.” This is an extension that comes off the pre-conditioned air hose and allows air, be it cool in the summer or warm in the winter, to be pumped into the belly area of the aircraft where ramp workers load baggage and cargo.These are just a few examples of the many plans we are currently working on to make the ramp a safer place to work.

As a result of the topics I have detailed in this article, we in Chicago have reduced our injuries by more than 30 percent from 2004 through 2006. In closing, I want to share with you my safety statement:

S = Secure a healthy future for our customers and employees.
A = Attention to your surroundings in the workplace and at home.
F = Face safety issues head on and commit to finding a solution.
E = Educate one another on working and living safer.
T = Teamwork from everyone to keep safety at the forefront.
Y = Yield a workplace free from injuries.

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