New violations by Alaska Airlines and its contractors for exposing workers to blood borne pathogens, caustic jet fuel and toxic chemicals

Contacts: Thea Levkovitz, Thea@workingwa.org

State investigators fine Alaska, contractors; total of 21 serious violations, $68,000 in fines

 SeaTac Airport –  The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has issued new citations for multiple serious health and safety violations against Alaska Airlines and two of its contractors  for failing to protect workers from exposure to corrosive cleaning chemicals, caustic jet fuel, blood borne pathogens, and body fluids including vomit, urine, feces and blood. The 17 new serious violations just announced by L&I, which follow state citations against another Alaska contractor earlier this spring, bring the total for Alaska and its Sea-Tac contractors to 21 serious health and safety violations.

  • What:   Press conference: Community leaders and airport workers will announce citations and demand Alaska Airlines start taking   responsibility for the widespread  health and safety problems in its operations at Sea-Tac Airport
  • When:  TODAY, Friday, June 14, 2013, 9 AM
  • Where: Sea-Tac Airport, North end of departures level of the Main Terminal

The new L&I citations found that Alaska and its contractors maintained unsafe and unhealthy working conditions inside airplane cabins and with equipment used to service Alaska planes.

This is the second time in less than three months that Alaska’s contractors have been fined for serious health and safety violations, and now the airline itself has been cited and fined as well. The fines against Alaska and its cabin cleaning, fueling and passenger services contractors total more than $68,000.

L&I investigators cited Alaska Airlines and/or its contractors for a range of violations, including:

  • Failing to adequately protect cabin cleaners from exposure to blood, urine, feces and vomit and from needle-stick injuries;
  • Failing to inform and train cabin cleaners about the hazards of caustic and corrosive chemicals they were required to use while cleaning airplane interiors;
  • Failing to provide cabin cleaners with appropriate safety equipment such as goggles, face masks and gloves resulting in respiratory problems, skin rashes and damage to their vision;
  • Denying access to bathrooms and drinking water for extended periods of time;
  • Denying workers their lawful breaks and meal periods;
  • Failing to provide access to Hepatitis B vaccines to protect from exposure to bodily fluids;
  • Failing to provide proper time and training to deal with pathogens or to adequately clean and disinfect areas and equipment used by the public;
  • Failing to provide personal protective equipment to protect fuelers from exposure to Jet A Fuel;

In one graphic example, L&I cited Alaska’s cabin cleaning contractor for providing inadequate gloves to aircraft cabin cleaners. The gloves frequently tore or ripped, and, according to L&I:

“Workers were required to clear overflowing bathroom trash chutes by inserting their hand and arm into the chute to push waste through. Workers could encounter leaking used diapers, discarded syringes, and blood from leaking sanitary products during chute clearing.”

The L&I investigation was prompted last fall when more than 50 airline contract workers at Sea-Tac Airport, including fuelers, cabin cleaners and  wheelchair agents, filed  health and safety complaints with the state. Prior to filing the state complaints, contract workers had repeatedly sought to get the issues addressed directly by Alaska Airlines and its contractors. After those efforts at dialogue failed, the workers filed the complaints.  In April L&I issued citations and fines against Alaska’s passenger services contractor, Bags, Inc. These new citations – outlining 16 “serious” violations and 5 “general” violations – were issued against Alaska Airlines; Alaska’s cabin cleaning contractor, DGS; and Alaska’s fueling contractor, ASIG. Under state law, “serious violations” are issued when “there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result” if the problem is not fixed.  The fines against Alaska and the contractors for each serious violation ranged from $2,400 to $5,500 – twice to four times the normal fine level; the average fine for a serious violation, according to L&I, is $1,200.

Since filing the complaints, workers at several contractors have formed unions and called for negotiations with their employers and Alaska Airlines, to address a range of workplace issues. The airline and the employers have to date refused to recognize the workers’ unions and enter negotiations.

Click here http://itsourairport.org/?p=716 to see the full L&I citation notice.

For additional information:   www.itsOURairport.org

Working Washington, a Washington based non-profit coalition of individuals, neighborhood associations, immigrant groups, civil rights organizations, people of faith, and labor united for good jobs and a fair economy.

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