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Develop a "Safety Culture" at your Airport!

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Airport Ramp Safety

Who knows more about what it takes to keep an airport ramp area accident-free than those who work there everyday?  That's the idea behind forming an Airport Ramp Safety Group to create a safer work environment at airports.

An Airport Safety Group should be a grassroots effort that brings together baggage handlers, fuel operators, airline and freight representatives, staff from the FAA, Airport Operations, State Police, Fire Rescue and others familiar with the airfield.  Each month, the group will meet to identify potential hazards from their daily experience and brainstorm ways to neutralize those potential dangers.

It's a problem that airports across the nation are taking more seriously.  Industry-wide, experts estimate that the airlines lose more than $5 billion a year to ramp damage, typically collisions between ground service vehicles and parked aircraft or jet ways.   Because accidents also result in cancelled flights, lost ticket revenue, added costs for passenger lodging, and overtime for repairs, even minor ramp incidents can cost airlines $250,000 or more.

Indeed, the Flight Safety Foundation estimates that for every dollar of aircraft damage, the actual cost to airlines is five times that amount, or more.  One airline reported that $77 million in aircraft damage from ramp operations resulted in about $540 million in actual lost revenue.

Even worse, say experts, are the number of ramp workers injured every year.  At 14 in 100, the rate of injuries to ramp workers is far higher than for many other industries.  Human error is the primary cause of ramp accidents, says the International Air Transport Association, where about 92% of incidents can be traced to failure to follow procedures, lack of adequate training, and airfield congestion.

APS Chief of Operations, Jack Kreckie, was the co-founder and Chairman of Boston Logan's Airport Safety Alliance.  The Airport Safety Alliance is well known and respected at Logan and airports across the country. Programs that raise awareness and help develop a Safety Culture are imporant in the airport environment.  Massport and their tenants at Boston Logan recognized this need and supported this program.  Their goal:  "to prevent injuries and reduce the millions of dollars lost each year to ramp damage."

Kreckie likens the ramp safety effort to the nationwide focus on security that took place in response to the September 11 attacks.

"After 9/11, we all started thinking outside the box about what we can do to protect the airport," said Kreckie.  Similar imagination is needed to prevent damage and injuries that can occur daily on airport ramps.   Airports and travelers did a great job of developing and accepting the new security culture at airports.  We need to find the same committment to development of a safety culture thast is just as effective.

There are a number of target areas at Logan that were spearheaded by Kreckie where significant improvement was seen.

  • A ramp lighting survey prompted a substantial investment in lighting improvement, significantly increasing the safety of ramp operations at night.
  • A mandatory reflective outerwear (vest) program was instituted, increasing visibility of ramp workers.
  • A Ramp Safety Hotline, giving ramp workers a place to call in their issues and concerns around the clock, was initiated.
  • Safety Alerts were published and distributed, highlighting cautions or lessons learned from accidents at airports around the country.
  • A monthly newsletter, based on minutes from the monthly meeting and current issues, was distributed electronically to over 500 recipients around the world.
  • An Annual Safety Fair / Safety Symposium was inaugurated, which attracted 700-900 ramp participants annually for information and education.
  • Safety Partnerships were developed with airline tenants, airport management, law enforcement, TSA, OSHA, The Construction Safety Roundtable, and a number of airlines and airports around the country.
  • "Best Practices", a combination of the best ramp safety procedures from all of the participating airlines, was developed and distributed.

Let APS Safety help your airport to develop a "Safety Culture".

Food for Thought   A safety specialist from the  United Kingdom Flight Safety Committee stated the loss in terms almost everyone can understand: "Worldwide, the dollar equivalent of fifteen Boeing 747-400s is lost each year to equipment damage during ramp operations."                      

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