Preventing Airport Grounds Slip and Fall Accidents

Imagine walking down the ramp to board your aircraft, when you unexpectedly slip and fall. You hit your head and fall to your back, landing unconscious, and needing medical attention. The plane service is delayed, and you are no longer heading on vacation, but to the hospital. This is simply imagination, but in reality, it happens more times than one can count in a year. Accidents like this are rarely talked about and receive little to no attention; however, it is a huge problem that cost airports and airlines millions to billions every year. In fact, the Flight Safety Foundation estimated several years ago that “ramp” accidents cost major airlines worldwide at least $10 billion a year. Even more so, about 243,000 people are injured each year in-ground occurrence accidents and incidents; the injury rate is 9 per 1,000 departures. Beyond ramp accidents, think of all the other grounds and items outside of the planes like tarmac steps, cargo operations and food service that are potential liabilities for accidents but with the help of some additional traction, could be easily prevented.

In 2003, the Flight Safety Foundation launched the Ground Accident Prevention to help eliminate accidents and incidents on airport ramps (aprons) and adjacent taxiways, and during the movement of aircraft into and out of hangars. One of the most common accidents for individuals is slip and fall accidents—in large part due to poor weather conditions and the ever-increasing demand for aircraft to turnaround quickly, putting considerable pressure on workers. By following several easy to implement slip and fall prevention techniques, you can help guide your airline to a higher level of safety standards.

1. Assess the grounds

Before you can prevent a slip and fall accident on the grounds, you need to educate yourself and team on where they are most likely to occur. Walk the grounds with operations managers in all departments who know the day to day activities and can give you insight on common problem areas. Make sure to walk the entire area, which could include tarmac steps, delivery areas, ramps, and food prep areas. Be on the lookout for the following:

  • Uneven changes in walking surfaces. This is an easy slip and fall or trip hazard which can be easily remedied with caution messaging tape, railings, or a non-slip film.
  • Little to no lighting/visibility. In dark areas or outdoor areas, be sure all lightbulbs are in working order and use floor level illumination or egress path markings to define the walkways and steps.
  • Clean up clutter. This is a common tripping hazard that can easily be fixed. Electrical cords are common culprits on airport grounds, and an employee should be assigned the task of cleaning up areas at the end of their work shift and during it.
  • Easy to access cleaning supplies. Make sure wet floor signs, paper towels, mops, etc. are all available in convenient locations at the airport and your employees are aware of their location and can access them.

Watch Your Step

2. Stairs Should Be Treated with Treads

Tarmac stairs, vehicle steps— any type of stair can cause quite a headache for airlines. Tarmac stairs are often subject to the outdoor elements and can easily become slipping hazards. Other stairs, such as cargo transport vehicle stairs are also potential hazards if the proper traction is not in place. Adding peel-and-stick anti-slip stair treads is an inexpensive and easy to implement fix in preventing accidents. Stair treads should be checked and replaced immediately if dull, as they are a vital part of preventing slip and falls when climbing steps. For example, consider an employee hurrying deliver cargo to the plane. He is rushing in the rain and slips on a step, causing an accident. Or perhaps a young child who is preoccupied with walking down the tarmac stairs and accidentally slips. These are both all too common occurrences and why having stair treads on steps is so important in airport grounds slip and fall prevention programs.

3. Make Flooring Slip-Resistant

The texture of your floor, especially the airport ramp floor, is essential because they are constantly being hit with high-levels of traffic and elements from outside. If you do not have slip-resistant flooring in place, add an anti-slip film that is certified “High Traction” by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), like our Safety Track® 3200 Heavy Duty Grade.

When it comes to cleaning non-carpeted floors, use cleaning solutions that don’t leave a slippery residue. It is important to note that bleach will sanitize, but should not be used as a cleaner because on top of grease, it can create a very slippery environment. Make sure you are using NFSI-certified cleaning products that are designed to keep your floors with a high level of traction.

4. Use Caution With Mats

Although mats can offer a good front line of prevention against slip and fall accidents, they can also cause them if not properly maintained. Make sure you assess the quality of any mats you have because when airport grounds crew is hurrying, or guests are walking, they are not always paying attention and the mat may buckle, posting a huge hazard. Tips for ensuring mat safety include:

  • Secure any mats down. This can mean purchasing mats that have a high-traction backing, or you can easily put an anti-slip tape underneath the mat to prevent movement.
  • Mats should only be on clean and dry floors. Mats sitting on top of floors that commonly get wet will add to the potential for a slip, trip or fall. The mat can easily shift across the floor if it is wet underneath.
  • Check your current mats condition. If they look frayed, worn out, or buckled— go ahead and replace them. This is a small cost compared to a person tripping and hurting themselves. Alert all employees to report problems with mats to the management team.

5. Require airport grounds employees to wear slip-resistant shoes

Having the appropriate footwear when working at airport grounds is imperative to helping prevent slip and fall accidents. Street shoes, shoes with leather soles and athletic shoes put airport ground employees at a higher risk to slip. It should be a staple to their uniform!

Bathrooms on airport grounds can also be a common area for a slip and fall accident, so it is worth touching on a few tips to preventing slips and falls in them. Because there’s so much water present, be sure to apply non-slip mats or non-slip tape around the sinks and possibly the toilets. Having hand dryers installed next to the sink or towels, within easy reaching distance, helps to make sure people don’t have to move around with their wet hands, potentially dripping water on the floor. Also, make sure employees are doing regular bathroom checks to make sure it is clean, tidy, and the floors are dry.

Many tips like having stair treads on the tarmac stairs or applying anti-slip tape on the airport ramps might seem like common sense but are unfortunately overlooked when it comes to airport grounds safety. The average cost of a single ramp accident is estimated at a $250,000, often the bulk of it not being covered by insurance. With more than 8.7 million people injured from slip, trip and fall incidents every year in the United States, the threat is very real that one could occur on your airport grounds if proper prevention measures are not taken. Accidents are always bound to happen, but by taking the proper measures to assess the grounds, update safety measures, and train employees, you can lessen the likelihood of them happening. Work collaboratively with your grounds teams to create a safer environment and you will not only reduce accidents, but improve team morale, lessen your liability claims and provide peace of mind to all that work on and around your airport grounds.

If you have questions regarding reducing slip and fall incidents at your workplace contact a Jessup Representative to discuss solutions today.

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