A state investigation of the accident that killed a tug driver at Los Angeles International Airport this past February has concluded that numerous safety violations caused the death of the 51-year old ramp worker, Cesar Valenzuela, when his vehicle struck a curb and he was thrown from the tug.
Investigators determined that although tugs are required to have safety belts and workers are required to wear them, the ramp company’s safety policies “did not require, and in fact discouraged, the use of safety belts in certain areas of the airport”, according to a statement by Cal/OSHA. An investigation of the death by the coroner’s office had previously found that there was no working seat belt on the tug. The company, Menzies Aviation, disputed the state’s findings and is appealing the fine.
This tragic death and the state findings point out the seriousness of complying with safety policies on the ramp, especially the requirement for wearing seat belts. Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident. In 2012, OSHA sent a hazard alert to airlines and ground handling companies reminding them of the requirement for baggage tugs to have seat belts. This alert followed the death of a ramp worker in Atlanta who died after being thrown from his vehicle.
With ramp worker turnover so high, it’s especially important for supervisors and managers to ensure that safety policies are not only in place, but actively monitored to ensure compliance.