Alaska Airlines cited for unsafe working conditions

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries recently issued citations to Alaska Airlines and its ground handling contractor, Menzies Aviation, for health and safety violations. Alaska was fined $7,000; Menzies was fined $62,000. Both have filed appeals disputing the violations.

“We're supposed to have safety as our No. 1 priority,” said Ailene Lagat, who worked for Menzies from last summer until January.

She said failing equipment and workers getting injured was typical.

%

INLINE

%

After Menzies workers filed complaints last summer, L&I launched an investigation in August.

Inspectors found that "Alaska Airlines did not provide safety devices, safeguards, work practices, processes and the means to make the workplace safe from hazards that were causing, or likely to cause, serious physical harm to Menzies ramp agent employees who handle cargo and passenger baggage for Alaska Airlines at Sea-Tac Airport, Seattle, Washington."

The state found that "Menzies employees have approximately a four times higher injury rate than other employees in their risk class."

Violations, according to the state’s citations sent to Menzies, included some vehicles that did not have functioning back-up lights, horns, or hand brakes.

The state also said that Menzies did not examine trucks 62 times before daily use, and in some cases, it did not have guards or guard rails on equipment.

Socrates Bravo, a Menzies employee, said at a press conference Monday afternoon that fixes take too long, especially with Alaska's 20 minute guarantee to get passengers their bags.

“We won’t tell our management (about the problems, because) if we do, we don’t have equipment to get our work done,” he said.

%

INLINE

%

A spokeswoman with Alaska Airlines released a statement that said in part, "We are focused on ensuring a safe work environment even as we deliver important customer benefits such as a baggage service guarantee…Alaska Airlines' top priority is the safety of its customers, employees and vendors."

In the citations, the state suggested providing enough staff so workers can get help with heavy bags, in addition to redesigning conveyer systems and staying on top of repairs.

They’re fixes passenger Dave Huber can agree with.

“Machinery should be safe out there,” he said. “If they hit a plane or hit another person, it's dangerous to the public.”

On Monday afternoon, Menzies Aviation also sent a statement, saying in part, “Many of the citations relate to airport infrastructure issues. Fully mitigating these issues would require a massive reconfiguration of the airport itself, and changes to baggage systems and ground handling equipment used not just at Sea-Tac, but throughout the U.S. aviation industry.”

Want to talk about the news of the day? Join us on Facebook.