When people think of hazardous jobs, they tend to picture employees working in manufacturing, industrial, construction, and related fields. Yet, the airline industry can be just as risky for a multitude of reasons.
Whether working in the airport or aircraft, airline personnel face numerous challenging situations every day. Some hazards involve machines and technology, while others relate to people, health and wellness, and specific situations. Regardless of the type of risk, airline and airport workers must take precautions to avoid facing physical or mental injuries on the job.
Working at an airline puts employees in charge of equipment that can be dangerous if mishandled. A worker on the tarmac is exposed to vehicles of all shapes and sizes, such as commercial airplanes, jets, large hand trucks, and forklifts. Any piece of equipment can stop working correctly, and even a small problem could easily escalate into a bigger, more serious one.
Next, airline workers assigned to the terminal or inside planes must deal with the public regularly. Passengers who are on the plane or just getting off a plane may become irate. Dealing with angry customers can be difficult, particularly when the customers are extremely enraged. A confrontation with a hot-headed flyer could lead to an unwanted altercation with the flyer.
From a physical point of view, being an airline worker is an arduous task. Picking up baggage all day can lead to body stress and soreness. Similarly, standing for hours upon hours can strain legs, back, and neck muscles. Additionally, flight attendants sometimes may need to help passengers move from seat to seat, sometimes carrying their items or hoisting heavy luggage into overhead compartments prior to takeoff.
Another issue with airline work is that it may involve exposure to chemicals and toxins. Even the airline workers who focus on keeping public areas sanitized may develop problems after repeatedly utilizing cleaning supplies that contain high levels of bleach, alcohol, ammonia, and other harsh germ killing agents.
Surprisingly, airports built prior to 1980 likely contain materials made up of asbestos. During renovations, asbestos particles can become airborne, which puts exposed airline personnel who breathe in asbestos fibers at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer later in life.
Finally, airline employees working in the terminal, on the tarmac, or in the air after early 2020, may put themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19. This health hazard pandemic has been known to significantly affect the respiratory system of some sufferers, causing potentially irreparable harm in some infected populations. Since COVID-19 is extremely contagious, it can be passed from worker to worker, airline vendor to worker, or passenger to vendor.
Keeping the many hazards faced by airline employees in mind, it is unsurprising that commonly reported injuries are across the board. Repetitive stress injuries among airline workers top airline personnel Workers’ Compensation statistical reports. These can include back injuries, head injuries, and neck injuries, leg issues, and other discomforts and conditions related to standing for long periods, lifting items, and bending over constantly.
Other physical injuries frequently seen in airline workers involve being struck by objects, such as equipment or airborne debris. Even being hit by a piece of unsecured luggage that falls out of an overhead bin can land an airline worker in the emergency room. Tarmac accidents linked to runaway objects and malfunctioning equipment, or equipment used negligently, can lead to broken, crushed bones and soft tissue injuries.
Hearing loss can be another problem for airline workers. Airports are busy, crowded environments. Outside on the ramps and tarmac, team members wear protective ear-gear. However, the protective gear may not always keep a worker from losing hearing.
Airline staffers may suffer from more mental injuries, too. A pilot or flight attendant that is involved in a serious crash could have a near-death experience or witness the deaths of others. Also, an airline worker involved in a terrifying altercation between passengers may be unable to shake off feelings of terror or develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Flight crew members can be at risk for a very specific type of condition called shift work disorder. Shift work disorder occurs when employees work unusual shifts over a long period of time. Their bodies cannot keep pace with the constantly changing schedule, which may affect their personal lives and lead to high stress, sleep disorders, mood swings, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and other symptoms.
Although coronavirus is just beginning to be an occupational risk for airline workers, it is no less dangerous than any other risk for personnel who contract the disease. Coronavirus at the very least can lead to the need to self-quarantine and may require hospitalization to combat the effects of the novel virus on the body.
Any job can be hazardous, and some hazards cannot be foreseen. Nonetheless, airline workers and their supervisors can take several steps to lower the chances of a staffer getting hurt on the job.
A proven method to quickly reduce the likelihood of airline work risks is to create and observe airtight protocols for all processes. The protocols should be taught to all new employees and re-taught at least once a year to refresh workers’ memories of proper procedures. Education is a solid first-line defense against avoidable tragedies.
Airline workers should always wear protective personal equipment. Protective personal gear could include everything from industry-standard ear protection to specialty footwear.
In the era of COVID-19 concerns, personnel should wear masks during all face-to-face interactions with co-workers, airport vendors, and passengers. Those who feel ill should stay home to avoid infecting their colleagues or the public, even if they believe that they do not have COVID-19.
To avoid bodily stressors and strains, workers should move and lift in ergonomically feasible ways. When an item is too heavy for them, they may need to utilize equipment or the help of another employee to safely transport the object from place to place. Along these lines, airline employees should diligently secure all large objects that may move or fall during transit.
As a final precaution, airline personnel owe it to themselves to take charge of their emotional health and physical wellbeing. At the first sign of mental trauma, an airport worker should feel comfortable seeking advice from a trained professional. The cost to speak regularly to a therapist may even be partially or fully covered under some health insurance plans. The same policy goes for getting annual examinations and age-specific check-ups.
Like all workers, airline employees have the right to make a claim for Workers’ Compensation if they suffer injuries that happened on the job. However, a significant percentage of first-time Workers’ Compensation claims are denied each year. Insurance companies may be hesitant to accept a claim, especially if the employee does not get medical treatment immediately or is making a mental health claim rather than a claim for a tangible injury, such as a broken bone.
Knowing that claim denial can be a real issue, airline workers who get hurt while performing their responsibilities should seek out a diagnosis and help from medical professionals as soon as possible. They should also keep records of all visits and bills to substantiate their claims. If a claim is denied, a worker can always call a knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation attorney for help with an appeal.
In some cases, an airline employee may want to pursue a third-party claim against an individual or corporation that is responsible for his or her injury. This claim is separate from Workers’ Compensation and can help cover the long-term costs of an injury. Filing a claim can be complicated, so an injured worker should seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
Are you an injured airline worker? If so, one of our dedicated Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP can help you with your claim. Working in the airline industry can be dangerous, and we understand how important it is to receive proper compensation. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-512-1500. Located in Philadelphia, we help injured workers throughout Pennsylvania.
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The situation regarding the COVID-19 virus is continually changing, and we are following all recommended guidelines to stay healthy.
Currently, our law firm is remaining open to serve your legal needs. If you were working light duty or modified duty as a result of a work injury in Pennsylvania and were recently laid off or terminated from your job due to the Coronavirus you may be entitled to weekly workers' compensation checks for lost wages moving forward. Contact us to find out . We are open and ready to assist.
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