Air Transportation Workers’ Compensation & Employee Injuries

Air travel will increase this spring and summer as COVID-19 vaccinations rise. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) already reports that airlines are seeing a growing number of passengers throughout the country. In line with this positive trend, the Allegheny County Airport Authority recently announced that airlines approved the restart of the Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal Modernization Program, a major construction project including the opening of new terminals. With the expected influx of passengers, especially at a facility that will be under construction, it is important for Pittsburgh air transportation workers to be aware of common workplace injuries and how to respond. If an incident occurs, it is important to document and collect evidence of the injury and where it took place. 

Statistics of Employee Injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) for Pennsylvania, air transportation workers have one of the highest injury rates, 10.5 injuries for every 100 full-time workers. Overexertion causes almost half of air transportation employee injuries in Pennsylvania (49.6%), followed by being struck by or pushed against an object. The majority of air transportation employee injuries occur to the upper extremities (31.4%), trunk (26.3%), and lower extremities (25.2%). The most common injuries are sprains and strains (49.8%) followed by bruises and contusions (17.8%). Other common injuries include pulled backs and herniated discs. Causes of injuries vary by specific professions within the air transportation industry. Dangers include icy tarmacs, exposure to illness, and air turbulence. Airline and airport employees represent a variety of roles, both on and off the plane, including:

  • Flight crew
  • Gate and ticketing agents
  • Ramp agents, baggage handlers, and airport grounds crew
  • Shuttle bus drivers and food service workers

Risks and Injuries by Role

Flight Crew

Due to their on-flight role, pilots and flight attendants have a number of job-specific risks. These include falls from in-flight turbulence, injuries from lifting passenger luggage. In addition, workers compensation should cover any other types of injuries they may have sustained while working as a travelling employee. These can include such things as a car accident on the way to the motel to spend an overnight, slip and falls to even being assaulted.

Gate and Ticketing Agents

The customer service demands of gate and ticketing agents can be high-stress and both physically and mentally demanding. Injuries can occur from slip and falls in the airport, lifting baggage, to assisting individuals on to a plane. Additional airport customer-service and retail jobs, such as food service workers and shuttle bus drivers, can be at risk for physical injuries as well including car accidents, injuries from lifting, pushing or pulling or slips and falls among others.

Ramp Agents, Baggage Handlers, and Airport Grounds Crew

The physical demands of loading and unloading luggage and servicing aircrafts puts ramp agents and airport grounds crew members at risk for a variety of injuries and conditions. Workers lift bags weighing up to 70 pounds (or more) throughout shifts that are up to eight hours in length. Back, neck, arms, and shoulder strains are common, including damage to muscles, nerves, and tendons. Commercial airplanes are very loud. Hearing loss can occur without proper precautions. Workers are also at risk of ramp injuries such as being struck by moving objects or tripping over cables and fueling hoses. 

If an accident occurs, it is important to keep medical documents and evidence of the scene. A workers’ compensation claim will need to show that the injury occurred during work. Details such as a crowded ramp or slippery surface will be important to note. Air transportation employees are covered by workers’ compensation laws in Pennsylvania. If you or a loved one has been injured while working in air transportation, Dugan & Associates workers’ compensation lawyers will work to pursue fair and just compensation and get you the treatment you deserve. Contact us today online or by telephone at 412-353-3572.

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