Wednesday, August 20, 2014

State Concludes Menzies' Lax Safety Led to Airport Worker Death

Menzies Aviation, the Scotland-based, mega airport services company and hazardous workplace recidivist has been slapped with a $77 thousand dollar fine in California after the state's labor safety authority found it discouraged the use of safety belts on the ramp of Los Angeles International Airport. But in the case of Cesar Valenzuela, the restraint on his tow tractor wasn't even working on the night he was thrown from the truck to his death. 

The 51-year old Valenzuela, was working with cargo at the airport in February when he was found dead, his head beneath a wheel of the truck. A portion of the driver's seat belt was missing according the Cal/OSHA, which issued its report on the worker's death today.

It was a death "that could have been prevented," according to Christine Baker, an official at the agency who went on to include in a written statement that key to having safety equipment that actually enhances safety, is implementing the safety plan.

Menzies in California should have been on a very short leash considering four company employees have been killed at two California airports since 2006; two in 2006 at LAX for which the company was charged with serious safety violations and one at San Francisco International Airport the following year, according to statistics compiled by the Service Employees International Union and government records

Let's not forget that it was was a Menzies ramp worker who ran a luggage loader into the side of an Alaska Airlines MD-80 in Seattle in 2005 and failed to report it to the airline. I know you did not forget because that's the little gash that turned into a big ole hole when the airplane reached 26 thousand feet forcing an emergency landing and scaring the bejeebers out of the people on board

But the leash can't be too short because in the letter released by Cal/OSHA today, the state claims that the company keeps on making those "serious" infractions, defining the term "serious" as something that has a "realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result."

For fibbing that Valenzuela suffered a heart attack rather than reporting he'd been killed on the job, Menzies was also charged with violating workplace safety regulations. 

The death of the father of two is tragedy enough, but Menzies's actions before and after the accident, and a history of callous disregard for workers' well-being is illustrative of the troubled but little examined side of aviation safety. Despite the fact that industry committees have been formed and airlines now undergo comprehensive audits of their ground-handling operations, the deaths and injuries keep on coming. 

I've been asking around about this and in an upcoming post, I'll tell you what I've found. 


Unknown said...

Christine, this report blows my mind. If what you have reported here is true (and I'm not doubting your comments at all), then Menzies got away lightly. There are places in the world, far less civilized than the US, where the management would be facing jail time and hefty fines just for the lack of due care regarding the provision of a safe work environment which lead to a death. To have had three deaths and to have lied about at least one, well that would guarantee time behind bars. This also speaks volumes for the morals and ethics (or lack thereof) of this organisation's management in the US, at the very least, if not across its global operations. Pity, because I've always had a lot of respect for Menzies where I've come across them.

Grumpy said...

Agree wholeheartedly w/Richard S-W. A $77k "fine" is a slap on the wrist to a company like Menzies. The only way to get them to change their ways is to adjudge a fine that hurts - say, in the 100's of millions. Add to that by holding company management personally liable for encouraging continued flouting of stewardship. Throwing half a dozen top managers in the slammer for a decade or so might get their attention. As it is, the feckless BS "punishment" will just be written off as the cost of doing business, until the next fatality.