Cell Phone Precautions

July 23, 2008
Veteran FBO turned consultant says today’s multimedia culture can challenge safety

Randy Bisgard, senior vice president of Tampa-based Airport Business Solutions, has more than 35 years experience at airport-related and fixed base operations. Based in Denver, Bisgard has worked in safety, security, and training. He cautions that with the proliferation of personal communication equipment, cell phones, iPods and other music players, hand-held games and other devices, several industries (including aviation) have seen increases in problems associated with the use of this equipment.

While two-way radio communications systems have been used on airports for years, the combination of the new generation of communication technology and the culture of the personnel that use them has changed significantly, says Bisgard. This new culture has exploded into a need to be constantly connected to others via calls, text messaging, or other alerts. He cautions that there are various workplace operations, particularly in active aviation environments, where these devices can be very hazardous or even deadly.

Bisgard offers some “best practices” to consider for airport facilities and operations to maintain a safe working environment ...

  • The use of personal cell phones during work hours should be prohibited. Cell phones should not be allowed to be carried on any person who is entering airport work areas such as aircraft ramps and parking areas, fuel storage areas, cargo areas, warehouses, hangars, and other hazardous materials areas. Phones are not only a distraction hazard, they can be dropped or fall into fuel tanks, aircraft component areas, engines, or other areas that could cause damage, FOD, or explosion issues.
  • All other types of personal communication or entertainment equipment such as radios, iPods, Walkmans, CD players, games, and similar equipment shouldn’t be allowed.
  • ‘Company issued’ cell phones required for proprietary on-airport use must be certified as intrinsically safe and approved under the Class 1, Division 1 requirements and the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Cell phone use should never be allowed while operating any GSE equipment or performing any airfield-related job task.
  • All approved company cell phone use must be kept at least 50 feet from any vehicle or aircraft refueling operation, parked refueling vehicles, fuel storage areas, aviator’s breathing oxygen storage, and any other hazardous material storage areas.
  • Personnel in customer service areas, or those dealing with the public, should not be allowed to use personal cell phones while at their work station.
  • When operating a vehicle, personnel with company-issued cell phones should be required to pull over and stop to conduct a call. Check the latest rules and regulations for vehicle operation and use of electronic devices in your state.
  • Placing a call when within the AOA should be severely restricted. Incoming calls should be directed to go to voice message mode when operating around aircraft or anywhere on the AOA. Calls can be returned once ground activities are completed.
  • If operating a vehicle on active runways or taxiways, cell phone use should be prohibited and only radio communication with the control tower or FAA-approved source should be allowed.
  • Company cell phone use should never be allowed in precarious positions such as climbing ladders, on walkways, work stands, boarding bridges, or other areas that require full attention. Never allow phone usage during aircraft marshalling operations.
  • 24-hour operations that require personnel to answer incoming calls at night should also have restrictions on their use. Incoming calls should be ignored and voicemail utilized when performing any ramp service functions, particularly aircraft towing, refueling and maintenance operations.
  • If a call must be returned, the user should step away from the work at hand and safely complete the call before returning to any job-related function. Particular care should be taken and training procedures followed in these scenarios since the potential for distraction from the work at hand can be disastrous when working on or near aircraft.

Bisgard suggests that airports and FBOs review their operations to ensure that each person’s work environment is safe regarding communication policies and phone procedures.

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Randy Bisgard can be reached at 303-627-4776 or [email protected].