Monday, March 7, 2016

Unsafe working conditions in Alaska Airlines and Menzies Aviation

In the aftermath of an investigation conducted at Sea-Tac International Airport, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries issued citations recently to Alaska Airlines and its ground-handling contractor, Menzies Aviation, for health and safety violations.

Inspectors found "Alaska Airlines did not provide safety devices, safeguards, work practices, processes and the means to make the workplace safe from hazards that were causing, or likely to cause, serious physical harm to Menzies ramp agent employees who handle cargo and passenger baggage for Alaska Airlines at SeaTac Airport."

Menzies was fined $62,000 for 16 violations of state workplace health and safety laws."The vehicles and other equipment we use are often poorly maintained and it has led to injuries. This should not be happening anywhere, much less on public property," said Socrates Bravo, a ramp agent who has worked for Menzies Aviation for more than four years.

Menzies employees filed a complaint with the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health last summer alleging unsafe vehicles and other ground service equipment "with malfunctioning or deficient engines, brakes, gears, steering, electrical systems and tires, and other safety violations." The workers requested a fleetwide review of all ground service equipment used in the company's operations at Sea-Tac.

"Given the critical nature of the service that we provide, it is unacceptable that we have to deal with brake failures, dangerously worn tires, stalling engines and other unsafe conditions,” said Darius Harris who handles baggage for Menzies.

"The commissioners need to be mindful of the fact that last year a jury assessed $10 million judgment against the Port in a case filed by a contract worker tragically paralyzed in a ramp accident at Sea-Tac,” said Sergio Salinas, president of Seattle-based SEIU Local 6.

Alaska is the dominant carrier at Sea-Tac; together with Alaska Air's regional carrier Horizon Air, Alaska Air handles just over 50 percent of passengers at the airport.

Alaska Airlines made headlines across the country in April 2015 when one of its flights was forced to make an emergency landing at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after passengers heard banging and screams from a ramp agent who was trapped in the plane's cargo hold. Alaska reported the ramp worker, who was not injured, told officials he had fallen asleep in the cargo hold and did not wake up until after takeoff.

Menzies' safety record came under intense scrutiny following a fatal accident at Los Angeles International Airport last year that resulted in the death of Menzies ramp worker Cesar Valenzuela when he was thrown from his tug and pinned under one of the tug's tires. The vehicle did not have seat belts.


Anonymous said...

This is not good especially when AS purports to be such a safe airline

Anonymous said...

As far as the ramp agent falling asleep in the cargo compartment. When does personal responsibility factor in? What kind of bozo would fall asleep in the cargo hold. He should have been fired pronto.

Unknown said...

Bozos, logically, obtain bozo employment. Ramp agents are at least sometimes, and perhaps quite frequently, bozos. Want to travel safe with your family? Follow the money. Try examining the public safety responsibility of the Port Authority (you, the taxpayer, hire them after all) that permits all airlines, bozos, passengers, and ground service companies to even be inside the gilded airport gates in the first place, and profits the most, year in and year out, by the operation of the airport. To blame the bozo is to be one.

To blame the bozos is to be one.