May 14, 2012
I would like to address an important safety and health issue facing employers in the airline industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has become aware of fatalities involving airline baggage handling vehicles. Operators of such equipment, which includes bag tugs, belt loaders, cargo tractors, and bob-tail trucks, may face ejection or other hazards in the event of collisions or other incidents. These well-known hazards, and the recent fatalities, highlight the need for your industry to comply with OSHA's requirements regarding seat belts.
OSHA's requirements include (but are not limited to) 29 CFR 1910.132 (use of personal protective equipment, including seat belts) and Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (when recognized hazardous working conditions are not addressed by existing standards). OSHA enforces these and other requirements in order to protect operators of baggage handling equipment from hazards presented by such equipment.
Many baggage handling vehicles are already equipped with seat belts and, when that is the case, operators must wear them. In the event that some of your airline's equipment was manufactured without seat belts, or the seat belts have been removed, we ask that you contact the vehicle's manufacturer to ensure that seat belts are properly installed or replaced on the equipment. Manufacturers often offer a retrofit program for this important equipment. Again, once the equipment is installed or replaced, employees must use it.
I am sure you share our goal to reduce or eliminate injuries and fatalities suffered by operators of baggage handling equipment. In order to accomplish this goal, we call on you to ensure that your company evaluates its seat belt program and, if necessary, takes the actions mentioned above as soon as possible. If you have further questions, please contact your local OSHA Area or State Plan Office. For more information regarding OSHA standards and programs, please consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov.
David Michaels, PhD, MPH