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Maryland workplace safety officials propose fines for ‘serious’ violations at BWI Marshall Airport

A Maryland Occupational Safety and Health investigation has recommended citations, corrective action and $5,400 in fines for a ground-services vendor at BWI Marshall Airport for workplace safety violations, according to the agency’s inspection reports and formal response to workers’ complaints.

Menzies Aviation, which has contracts with every airline at Baltimore/Washington International, faces citations for “serious” violations for requiring workers to access the top of jet bridges — the passenger tunnels between the gate and the airplane — without protection or adequate training to prevent falls of up to 25 feet, the MOSH investigation found.

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“Employees were permitted to work from the top of jet bridges, as high as approximately 25 feet above concrete, without being protected from falling when travelling approximately 3 feet from the platform to the anchor point," said the April inspection report, signed by Steven S. Lakin, a Labor Department deputy commissioner.

MOSH proposed a $3,150 penalty for those violations and a $2,250 fine for not providing hard hats or other head protection for employees working in the bag tunnels, where “there were beams, piping and ceilings as low as 46 1/2 inches from the floor,” the inspection report said.

The agency gave Menzies until July 19 to rectify those issues, as well as a lack of a fire extinguisher on one truck and another without a nameplate, according to the inspection report. It gave Menzies a separate deadline — Aug. 13 — to train employees on fall hazards in the work areas.

Menzies is cooperating with the workplace safety probe, a company spokesman said in a statement.

“Safety is always Menzies Aviation’s number one priority at each and every airport in which it operates," said Menzies spokesman Mickey Mandelbaum. "We are working very closely with MOSH to ensure that any concerns they may have are immediately addressed.”

Customer and employee safety is the airport’s priority as well, an airport spokesman said.

“BWI Marshall Airport expects tenants and their employees to operate in a safe manner, in accordance with federal and state regulations,” said spokesman Jonathan Dean.

Menzies is required to submit photographs, receipts or other documentation to MOSH that the vendor has corrected the issues.

The MOSH findings show "a serious deficiency in the health and safety program of the company,” said Peter Dooley, a senior project coordinator National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

“It’s a big deal,” said Dooley, who has been in the industry for 40 years. “The definition for a ‘serious’ citation is ‘likely to cause serious injury or death.’”

At first blush the proposed $5,400 in fines might not sound like much, but for context, it exceeds the average citation for a workplace fatality, which is typically around $4,000, he said.

“Falls are one of the biggest categories for worker fatalities in a lot of different occupations,” Dooley said. “It’s a serious, serious problem, and this is the exact kind of situation that results in falls and fatalities.”

Menzies will have a chance to object to the agency’s findings and request reductions in the proposed citations and penalties before final citations and penalties are issued.

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