Airline DART rates

A few weeks ago I wrote about the 15,000 outreach letters that OSHA recently sent to facilities with two or more 2010 DART incidents. What I’ll be doing next is going through that list and cross-referencing recipients with a DART rate database to see how individual sectors did. For no particular reason, let’s start with the airlines (NAICS 481111). To keep taunting, deflection and hate-mail to a minimum, I won’t mention any names.

So, how did they do? To start, 71 facilities representing 17 airlines got letters. The 2010 loss leader was in Londonderry, NH with a DART rate of 32.36. The same company holds the #2 spot with a rate of 30.67 at their Jackson, MS location. The rest of the top 10 are in:

  • Rapid City, SD (30.1)
  • Orlando, FL (28.1)
  • Billings, MT (25.9)
  • Newark, NJ (22.7)
  • Kansas City, MO (22.6)
  • Austin, TX (22.1)
  • Birmingham, AL (21.2)
  • New Windsor, NY (20.4)

Five of the top 10 are the same airline, and overall they got 15 of the 71 letters. Another major came in right behind with 14 of the 71. Reported DART rates for the listed airlines ranged from 32.36 (Londonderry) to a relatively low 2.3 for an operator in Newark. For comparison, the 2010 average DART rate for all industries, including State and local government, was 1.9. Based on the 2011 targeted inspection directive, all of the 18 airline sites with DART rates above 15 are probably looking at a comprehensive OSHA inspection this year.

What is causing all of these “Days Away, Restricted or Transferred” injuries? Baggage handling is the obvious suspect, but there are many other possibilities. We might think that all airlines are about the same as far as operating procedures, job descriptions and use of labor and technology, so shouldn’t exposure to the hazards of baggage handling, maintenance, flight attending etc. be similar? Apparently not, and the wide range in rates makes one wonder whether it is related to lack of good work practices, limited use of baggage handling equipment, handling of more or heavier (or both) bags, longer shifts, age of workers, under or over-reporting of incidents etc.

Aside from hurting their employees, these high rates are costing employers and passengers (all of us ticket buyers) a lot of money. So what really is driving these injuries, and what is being done about it? I’d love to hear back from the airlines or the employees and get some direct information.

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