The GS Reader's Forum goes to the front lines of the ground support industry to get feedback on different topics relevant to ground support equipment and ground handling.
Q: Some believe Ramp Safety is a great concern that should be addressed. Others believe that Ramp Safety has gotten better but there have never been any benchmarks to prove it. Is there a way we can address the fact that this issue seems to be looming out there?
Managing Director, American Airlines - St. Louis' Hub
The issue of ramp safety consistently looms in this industry as an ongoing topic of concern. I have spent 22 years working in the operational side of aviation, and in my opinion, I have seen safety improve dramatically over the past two decades. I think both employers and employees are more aware than ever of the environment to which they are exposed on a daily basis and the possible hazards that surround it when one is not careful. It would be a great story to say this industry has been accident free from any ramp-related injury or accident in the past twelve months, however, I think we all know the possibility of that happening is probably small to none. What I think we can say as an industry, is that our approach to ramp safety, our awareness of the dangers and the education to employees has definitely improved in recent years. Not only are the regulations continually getting tighter, but also the need to reduce costs is more prevalent than ever and all the carriers have been forced to work smarter and safer.
Industrial injuries and ramp lost time consumes hundreds of millions of dollars each year from this industry. In today's competitive world, if companies have not addressed the issue of safety and the associated costs that go hand in hand, they will not survive this critical period. This issue goes far beyond caring for your employee's well being, it touches the simple fact that if safety and injuries are not addressed and costs continue to skyrocket, there will be no company and no employee to get injured. This industry realized the dilemma years ago and has diligently been working to improve. And personally, safety on the ramp and employee's awareness of the dangers surrounding them if they are not careful is better now than it has ever been!
Director Ground Support, Southwest Airlines
In early February, the Airport Operations Safety Panel (AOSP) again warned airport operation executives, airlines and ground handing companies that the number of accidents and incidents on air operations area (AOA) across the country requires attention, and recommended nationwide standards for ground operations be created and adopted. There are several areas of concern pertaining to ramp safety:
Ramp Congestion: Airlines continue to add more flights and regional jets requiring additional ground equipment while trying to reduce turn times. This is creating a situation for additional accidents and runway incursions.
Training/Turnover: Most accidents are caused by human error and not following proper procedures. Training is a critical part of ramp safety. If the equipment used on the ramp were used on public roads, (pushback tractors, deicing trucks, container loaders, fuel trucks, etc.) you would certainly be required to have a special license or permit.
Cell Phones and Entertainment Devices: With increased use of cell phones and entertainment devices such as MP3 players, busy airport ramp operations is definitely not a place that needs any more distractions.
Equipment Condition: As Fleet Managers, it is our responsibility to provide our internal customers with a safe and reliable piece of equipment. First class prevention maintenance programs are expensive. Again, with the industry conditions, we need to ensure that all operators at our airports are properly maintaining their equipment.