Earlier this year, Cal/OSHA issued 5 citations against Menzies Aviation for workplace safety violation related to safety belt usage. The total in fines was over $75,000 for the cited offenses. The aviation company lost an employee to a tow tractor fatality when he apparently fell from the vehicle and was found with his head lodged under one of the tires.
What Went Wrong?
OSHA investigators found that the practice of driving without seatbelts appeared to be widespread among Menzies Aviation employees. The use of seatbelts in aircraft parking areas or to and from airport gates was not required in the company’s safety plan. OSHA claims that the employer actually discouraged the use of seatbelts when vehicles were not on marked roadways. In addition, they found that the seatbelt on the tow tractor involved in the fatality was not fully intact—an indication of a poorly implemented equipment inspection and maintenance program.
Review Your Safety Standards for Vehicle Use
- Ensure your safety program requires employees to use a seatbelt when operating any vehicle that is equipped with a seatbelt. This includes forklifts and other heavy equipment. Safety restraint devices are designed to reduce the risk of “mousetrapping” or crush injuries from being pinned underneath equipment.
- Make it clear in your written program (and reinforce in training) that vehicle safety restraints are to be used in all areas—not just on public or marked roadways. This includes traveling within a plant or industrial facility, on internal roadways, or between buildings.
- Make inspection and maintenance an important part of your program. Keep written records of these activities and review them regularly to ensure compliance.
- If you have older equipment that does not feature safety belts, consider having such restraint systems installed. Failure to retrofit a vehicle or piece of heavy equipment with updated safety components (when a kit is readily available from the manufacturer) may be seen as a violation. This is especially true if an injury occurs that could have been prevented by modern safety features.
Do you need assistance in reviewing your vehicle safety program? Contact DKF for a consultation.