Are ramp safety issues a major concern, why has it taken so long to pay attention to this topic, and what are the changes that can/need to be made to make a difference?

May 1, 2004

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.

May 2004

Are ramp safety issues a major concern, why has it taken so long to pay attention to this topic, and what are the changes that can/need to be made to make a difference?
Rhonda Hamm-NiebrueggeManaging Director, AA,
St. Louis' Hub
Ramp safety issues are always a major concern, whether it be today, five years ago or fifty years ago, the need is constant for awareness on this topic. This industry is an exciting and challenging place to work, but it is also a very dangerous place to work if employees are not well trained. Respect, by every employee in a company, for safety awareness is paramount if we are to succeed.

It's my belief that the industry hasn't ignored this topic at all, but too often employees feel they do not need recurrent or additional training. They find it mundane and once you have mastered a job, many feel there is nothing else to learn. However, when it comes to safety, this concept couldn't be more wrong. When it involves working safe, there is always something new to learn. It's like riding a bike, the more comfortable you get as a child when you first learn to ride, the less cautious you become over time. It is every company's responsibility to ensure that an employee never gets too comfortable in their job! That's why every company needs to update their training curriculum and methods of teaching frequently. It is as much the responsibility of a company to make the employees work safe as it is for the employee.

The awe of working around airplanes, hearing the engines roar or watching the propellers start up, can sometimes overwhelm anyone, especially if you are new in the business. For this reason, the initial training must hone in on the dangerous aspect of aviation. Ramp safety is just as important as air safety. Whether you are on the ground driving service vehicles, loading the airplane or piloting the airplane, caution must be used as if it were the first day on the job. Once an employee has a solid base to work with, he or she will learn to respect their job and the danger it presents. However, the ongoing need to remind employees is also key to their success. Videos and interactive classes can be a fun way to reemphasize "safety" issues to aviation workers. Keeping the attention of individuals is not an easy task, so companies must be innovative with their approach to employee training issues, especially when it involves safety tips.

Another way of getting the point across is by setting examples from top levels of management. The local management of any operation needs to be in the operation and see for themselves what is happening on a daily basis. Observe the behavior of your employees; recognize what they are doing right, and what they are not! Every manager should take pride in knowing they understand their operation and what it takes to be SAFE! Employees will recognize this effort and take a greater interest in the overall program.

Kevin Paddick Facility Manager, British Airways I believe that ramp safety is a concern to everyone that works within this industry. Safety is and should always be top of the list when dealing with moving parts or any other type of mechanical equipment.

One of the biggest problems is people get complacent within their particular roles especially if they have been doing the same job for years. It becomes second nature therefore, they are not always as observant to the things that are going on around them as they should be.

This in turn creates the opportunity for accidents to occur.

In today's environment things change so quickly. It is important that regular training is given to all staff whether they work on the ramp or only visit the area periodically as to perform their duties.

This should be mandatory to all from managers downwards, although people will say they are to busy to attend these courses but accidents happen whether you are to busy or not.

Remember it is the responsibility of everyone who works within this industry to ensure that your training records and Health and Safety Awareness are up to date.

Another way of ensuring people attend the courses is to make them a bit more interesting and to get staff to actively participate instead of just sitting and watching videos or listening to a talk from probably someone who has never even been out onto the ramp.

Perhaps a good example of this would be to allow certain staff members to actually make their own video expressing the safety awareness required when working within certain areas.

It does not matter who you are or what your job responsibilities entail, everyone should take pride in knowing that they are doing the job right and if they see anything or anyone doing something out of the ordinary or dangerous it MUST be reported.

An area that is SAFE is a happy area.

What is the most contributing factor to tow eyes breaking off dollies whilst towing units (freight) to and from aircraft side? Although this is not a regular occurrence, I have heard of such issues in the past and seeing this is a potentially large health and safety issue, I believe it is one that should be addressed.
Brian WoodVP Operations, Airport Terminal Services, Inc. The tow eyes breaking can be due to several factors. Abuse is obviously one factor that weakens the tow eye over time. Sudden stops by possibly curbing a cart/dolly while in tow, or jack-knifing the dolly and putting extreme pressure on it at odd angles. Too many bagcarts/dollies in a train or overloading the units also puts stress on the tow eyes. Another factor is normal wear and tear over time that goes unchecked. Both routine user inspections and formal PMI programs of any unit that has a tongue should include the inspection of the tow eyes. Worn tongues, cracks in the welds, and any bending of the metal should require the unit be tagged out of service and reported to maintenance for repairs. These items do not normally fail
due to one situation but evolve overtime which normally leaves multiple opportunities to discover and correct prior to the actual tow eye failing.

Andy Gomez Jr.
Facility Manager, A.P. Enterprises
My opinion is that tow rings damaged/torn off from a tow tounge normally occur when a tug operator whilst towing a dolly, attempts to back up at to sharp of an angle, causing the tug to contact the dolly frame, thus tearing off the tow ring.