Staying Safe on the Ground


“The airport ramp is most dangerous workplace in the world.”

– International Air Transport Association

To most people, when you think of damage to an aircraft, you think of the worst possible scenario, a plane crash, however, many accidents can happen while the plane is on the ground. After the engines stop and the plan is on the ground, many tasks need to be completed, including marshaling, parking, servicing the aircraft and fueling, which can be considered dangerous (and costly) as well.

It may seem like it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a tragedy. While an aircraft was being towed backward from the parking bay preparing to be taxied out, an engineer was sucked into the engine of the plane due to an irregular engine start-up procedure. This happened just last month at Mumbai Airport, and may possibly be the first of its kind in India. You may be thinking “But that’s in India, that doesn’t happen here!” In fact, based on a 2007 report from U.S. General Accountability Office, at least 6 deaths a year occur among aviation workers on the ground.

According to Ground Support Worldwide Magazine “In comparison to an aircraft crash it may sound like small potatoes, but direct costs associated with aircraft damage on the apron and in maintenance facilities are upwards of $1.2 billion a year. Factoring in the indirect costs of the aircraft being out of service, increased insurance premiums, temporary replacement, injuries, and other associated expenses, that number can approach $5 billion.”

Fortunately, most of the damages are preventable with additional safety precautions and training. We’ve gathered some key pieces of advice to promote a safe workplace:

*Don’t create an environment that allows for work-arounds and shortcuts.

Although it may seem beneficial in the moment to get the job done quicker, allowing employees to take shortcuts is an accident waiting to happen. Make sure that there is a set procedure of steps that they must follow, and pay attention to make sure this practice is actually implemented. Make sure it is clear that shortcuts will not be tolerated.

*Never ask an employee to do something that they aren’t trained to do.

One of the most dangerous aspects in the ground handling industry, especially considering the tools and equipment used, is individuals doing jobs that they were not trained to do. Managers should make sure employees are trained in whatever position they are supposed to have, and to stick to it. If job rotation exists in your company, make sure proper training is implemented for each job.

*Tell employees to stop if they are unsure.

Encourage employees to self-assess. If they do not feel 100% confident, then make sure they are aware that it is fine to stop, and seek out someone who would know what to do. This may cause for a delay, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Although it’s impossible to completely eliminate every risk associated with working in the ground handling industry, by adopting this advice into your organization’s safety program, you’ll be minimizing damages to your equipment, your employees, and your wallet.


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