However, if there was a point of contention among the GSE managers we heard from it was this: When would it be safer to not wear a seatbelt while operating GSE?
For this answer, we looked a little deeper into the Delta agreement, which does offer guidance on the issue.
Patrick Kapust, deputy director of enforcement for OSHA, pointed out that the Delta agreement clearly states when a worker should be wearing a seatbelt on “covered routes” – any route designated by airport authorities or airlines for traveling to and from aircraft gates, aircraft parking areas or maintenance hangars.
On the other hand, once at a gate or inside a bag room or hangar – in other words, near an aircraft or machinery – ground workers do not have to wear seat belts.
Kapust added that performing a job hazard analysis might be in order to address the situation better when it comes to not wearing a seatbelt and supplied us with some web sites to visit for more information.
“If a worker could get wedged under a piece of equipment,” Kapust says, “that is what needs to be addressed since that is the root cause of the hazard. A worker wearing a seat belt is not the hazard.”
He also told us about one facet of the Delta agreement that may not have been widely reported in the beginning. The Delta agreement only applies to states in which OSHA has jurisdiction. About half of the states in the country essentially enforce their own versions of OSHA. “State plan” states must enforce the federal agency’s regulations as their minimums, but can also choose to enact tougher state regulations.
Kapust had just come back from a meeting of the OSHA State Plan Association, in which Delta reps appeared to discuss the seat belt issue. For its part, Delta wants consistent regulations throughout the country, Kapust adds, since the airline may move GSE around the country and find itself with seat belts where they aren’t required or no seat belts where they are.
A consistent seat belt policy can only mean good things to Kapust.
“Baggage workers should know that they are going home at the end of the day,” he adds. “The accidents that we’ve investigated concerning baggage handlers are preventable with the use of seat belts.”
Job Hazard Analysis
A job hazard analysis focuses on job tasks as a way to indentify and prevent hazards before they occur. A booklet available from OSHA offers step-by-step guidelines to conduct the analysis.
Mary A. Brandenberger, who works in the communications department of OSHA, provided us with a link to this resource and several others, including a collection of safety and health topics for the aviation industry.
Since it’s that much easier to click on links online, take a look at this story once the February issue is posted online at www.aviationpros.com.
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