(c) 2010-2024 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Airline Ground Crew Fatalities Result in FFA Safety Alert

Recent fatal accidents at airports involving ground crew personnel drew the attention of The Federal Aviation Administration.

The most common types of accidents among airport ground crew and maintenance workers are:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Lifting and carrying injuries
  • Machinery accidents
  • Work transport accidents
  • Accidents from physical and chemical exposures

These accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • The complex and hazardous environment of airports
  • The use of heavy machinery and equipment
  • The need to work quickly and efficiently
  • Fatigue and stress

To reduce the risk of accidents, airports and airlines have implemented several safety measures, such as:

  • Providing proper training to ground crew and maintenance workers
  • Enforcing safety rules and regulations
  • Using safety equipment, such as hard hats, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots
  • Maintaining equipment in good condition
  • Creating a culture of safety

Accidents among airport ground crew and maintenance workers continue to occur despite these measures. This is because the work environment is inherently dangerous and there are always risks involved in working with heavy machinery and equipment. However, by reducing the risk of accidents, airports and airlines can help keep their employees safe.

The FFA issued a safety alert after it became aware of multiple events where injuries or fatal injuries have occurred during aircraft towing or ground handling operations.


1.  In one event, a wing walker sustained serious injury when an aircraft in tow was being repositioned. While the tow driver was moving the aircraft back to correct the aircraft position, the wing walker removed the main landing gear safety pins. This led to the wing walker being struck by the trailing edge flaps of the aircraft being towed. As a result, the wing walker was run over by the aircraft’s #3 and #4 main landing gear wheels.


2.  In another event, a ramp agent was fatally injured when the ramp agent approached the aircraft while the #1 engine was still running. The flight was operated with an inoperative auxiliary power unit, and the aircraft arrived at the gate with the #1 engine running for the required two-minute engine cool-down. After stopping the aircraft and setting the parking brake, the captain gave the hand signal to connect the airplane to ground power. However, one ramp agent had already proceeded to open the forward cargo bay, resulting in a fatal engine ingestion accident.

The FFA Recommended Action: Operators should use their Safety Management System (SMS), or a similar safety risk management and safety assurance process, to evaluate its towing and marshaling procedures to ensure:


1.   The procedures require installing chocks whenever an aircraft towing operation has been stopped, either temporarily or when the aircraft being towed is parked at the intended parking location.


2.   The procedures require all personnel to remain clear of the aircraft in tow until the aircraft has come to a complete stop.


3.   The procedures require that activities commence only after chocks are installed.


4.   The procedures require all personnel to remain clear of operating engines until they are shut down.


Here are some additional things that can be done to prevent work-related accidents among airport ground crew and maintenance workers:

  • Conduct regular safety inspections of equipment and facilities.
  • Implement a system for reporting and tracking accidents.
  • Provide workers with access to medical care and rehabilitation services.
  • Promote a culture of safety throughout the organization.

By taking these steps, airports and airlines can help to create a safer work environment for their employees.


Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters