A significant number of accidents occur during aircraft turnaround. “Turnaround” refers to the handling of the aircraft between flights while it on the ground. It involves all aspects of the servicing of the aircraft at the airport. Efficiency, speed and accuracy creates for a successful turnaround where the plane can soon be in the air. Servicing includes cabin cleaning, catering, ramp service, passenger disembarkation and embarkation, baggage/cargo handling, de-icing, fuelling and aircraft maintenance. Some airlines do this themselves, others subcontract a handling agent or even use the services of another airline. If contractors are used the airline must accept their responsibilities for the contractors in making the environment safe for them to work in. There must be cooperation between employees, employers and contractors to ensure a safe working environment and to ensure that everyone’s legal obligations are met. All employers are subject to the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, The Noise at Work Regulations 1989, Work at Height Regulations 2005 and other regulations.
In the UK the aviation industry nearly supports one million jobs and it has been reported by the HSE that during 2010/11 there were 78 major injuries and 815 incidents during turnaround and maintaining aircraft. Minimizing turnaround time can be cost effective but incurs more risk as things have to be done quicker. This may make employees more susceptible to injury. A proper risk assessment during this time is essential. Measures should be put in place to control the risks to workers. If differing workers are used to service different parts of the aircraft, each employer and contractor must assess the risks their activities pose to others. Health and safety requirements should be included in the bye-laws or licence conditions. Aerodrome operators should have frequent audit checks on the safety of the equipment and practices used during turnaround. Airlines could join together for health and safety benchmarking.
Possible hazards to health and safety during turnaround
- Manual handling – this includes handling of all luggage, cargo and catering trollies
- Falls from heights – this includes falls from conveyor belt vehicles, aircraft holds and maintenance platforms. Virtually all maintenance on an aircraft turnaround has to be done at height. So access equipment needs to be lightweight and flexible to reach all parts of the aircraft
- Moving vehicles – vehicles driving close to and around the aircraft may cause a crash
- Fire and explosion – during refueling of aircraft
- Hazardous substances – injuries can occur during cleaning eg exposure to sanitary waste and bodily fluids, there may also be exposure to aircraft fuels and fumes during fuelling
- Noise – from aircraft and vehicle engines. One way to mitigate against noise could be to fit acoustic insulation on the exhaust and engine compartment
- Slips and trips – can occur from badly stowed cables and spillages of fuels