BWI Workers Fear Falling While High off the Ground without Proper tie offs, File Second Set of Safety Allegations against Airport Contractor

Julie Karant: 646-584-9001; jkarant@seiu32bj.org

BWI Workers Fear Falling While High off the Ground without Proper tie offs, File Second Set of Safety Allegations against Airport Contractor

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: 1:45 PM on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 Next to BWI Airport: corner of Spring Ln. and Cargo Service Rd. in front of cargo building 113

Baltimore City Councilman Bullock to rally with workers at BWI contractor headquarters

 

Baltimore, MD – While safety may be a top priority at BWI Marshall Airport and for Menzies Aviation, PLC, workers continue to report feeling unsafe and have filed a second round of charges with the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) alleging that their employer Menzies has again violated safety regulations. Baltimore City Councilman John Bullock will rally with workers on Wednesday, who also allege that Menzies has yet to completely fix all of the MOSH violations reported in April and fined for in August, as detailed in two Baltimore Sun stories.

 

Reggie Adams, a jetway maintenance worker says he doesn’t have a tie-off to connect his harness to while on a bridge up to 25 feet off the ground or while climbing the an unstable ladder. “I’ve been afraid to fall off, especially when I’m right on the edge. I’ve never been trained on what to do when I fall, guess I’ll just pray on my way down,” Adams said. “I need my job, but I can’t keep risking my life to do it.

 

“I don’t feel safe because when I go up there I’m not hooked up to anything,” said Senya Abdul-Ghaffar, a fuel farm operator who climbs on top of fuel tanks at least 60 feet off the ground. “I don’t want to risk my life every day on the job. I need to be here for my daughter! Menzies needs to do better.”

 

“Menzies must act now to improve the safety of workers at BWI,” said Councilman Bullock. “Their failure to completely fix old safety violations while racking up new ones is unacceptable, especially at our airport.”

 

“Last time the wind caught the ID sign and pulled me forward,” said David Knapik, Menzies Jetway Maintenance Lead.

 

“I’ve gotten sick twice after cleaning the lead acid batteries and had to call out the next day,” said David Knapik, Menzies Jetway Mechanic. “On a previous shift, a battery exploded and leaked on the ground. I thought it was water so I was kneeling in it and burned my knees. I told management but they didn’t care.”

 

Menzies, which services every airline at BWI, has had its workers again file charges alleging unsafe conditions for accessing jet bridges and that requires workers to walk on top of jet bridges and for cleaning lead acid batteries that they believe violates Maryland’s health and safety protections. Workers also allege Menzies hasn’t fully fix April charges around the number of tie-offs necessary for work high off the ground or provided sufficient training.

 

MOSH COMPLAINT:

Walking-Working Surfaces: Fall Protection Systems and Falling Object Protection – Criteria and Practices

Since the abatement deadline, workers have reported that as of July 19, 2019:

  • Many jet bridges do not have sufficient tie-off points for safety harnesses once on top of the jet bridge.
  • Approximately 49 jet bridges do not have sufficient tie-off points.

Walking-Working Surfaces: Fall Protection Systems and Falling Object Protection – Training:

Because of the many risks associated with working on top of jet bridges, training on how to minimize fall hazards is crucial. Menzies was cited for violating the above OSHA standard, which requires training on how to minimize fall hazards, on July 11, 2019 and was ordered to abate this issue by August 13, 2019.

  • Jet bridge mechanics working on top of jet bridges report that they have not been adequately trained on procedures to minimize fall hazards.
  • Fuel farm workers report that they have not received adequate instructions on how to use safety harnesses to correctly hook up.

Personal Protective Equipment

Menzies workers regularly use powered industrial lifts to perform their job. These lifts use lead acid batteries that jet way mechanics are required to clean and charge. Lack of appropriate protective equipment has led to workers stepping and kneeling in electrolyte spills (sulfuric acid) and prolonged inhalation of fumes (hydrogen gas). Workers report that they:

  • Are not equipped with rubber aprons to protect against potential splashes while cleaning lead acid batteries for powered industrial trucks.
  • Do not have an adequate ventilation system or respirators to use while cleaning lead batteries.
  • Have not been adequately trained on how to use PPE when cleaning lead acid batteries.

“You’re within about 24 inches of the battery for up to eight hours. I’ve gotten sick before but still came in. I asked my manager about respirators twice but he said they’re too expensive. We’re supposed to have safety masks but we don’t have that. We’ve been given safety glasses but they’re not skin tight. You can have acid spray you. I think we’re supposed to have an apron but we don’t.” (John Bidwell, Jetway Mechanic)

 

Eye and Face Protection – Workers do not have adequate protective eye and face equipment while cleaning lead acid batteries.

 

Training – Batteries – Workers have not been adequately trained how to clean lead acid batteries for powered industrial trucks.

 

Potential issues with the ladders used to access the tops of jet bridges:

  • To gain access to the top of jet bridges, workers place ladders on crew stairs, which other workers use to access the jet bridge. This results in other workers crouching under ladders to pass while other workers are climbing jet bridges up to 25 feet off the ground.
  • Ladders to access jet bridges are not leaned on a level surface, which can cause ladders to be unstable.

With more than 173,000 members in 11 states, including 20,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

 

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