Fostering a Culture of Safety on the Tarmac – Five Ways You Can Enhance Safety in Your Ground Handling Operations

Fostering a culture of safety in your ground handling operations team is essential for collision avoidance and reducing personnel accidents and other mishaps on the tarmac.

The Flight Safety Foundation estimates that 27,000 ramp accidents and incidents — one per 1,000 departures — occur worldwide every year. That includes about 243,000 personal injuries, translating to a rate of 9 per 1,000 departures.

Because ramp safety is largely self-regulated, ground handlers must proactively instill a culture of safety in their ground support teams.

Here’s five ways you can reduce accidents in your ground handling operations by fostering a culture of safety in your team:

Proactive ground handling team communications

Opening the lines of communication in your team, from senior leadership, to management, to front line ground handling staff encourages potential risks or concerns to be quickly identified and resolved.

Keeping the communications lines regularly flowing through daily meetings, huddles, staff surveys, and other collaborative means of discussion is essential to continually fostering open discussion and creating a culture of safety.

Creating an environment where staff feel empowered and comfortable stopping each other from actions that may threaten safety without fear of retribution is another important element in fostering a culture of safety.

Additionally, having a clear chain of command for immediate resolution of any on-the-spot safety issues that arise in ground handling can enhance safety outcomes.

Fleet telematics

Equipping your ground handling team with state-of-the-art fleet telematics is an excellent way to foster a culture of safety, from authorization features, to speed control, to real-time alerts and reports on operator behavior.

Operator Authorization not only ensures workers are accountable for the vehicles they operate, it creates fundamental awareness that they are responsible for everything that happens while they are in control. And it prevents those who are not properly trained or approved for that vehicle from using it.

Pre-Operational Checklists can standardize important maintenance activities and safety checks that must be performed before a given device is put into service.  This tells workers they are operating a safe piece of equipment and provides an important accident prevention measure for managers.

Enforced Seatbelt Use is a simple and effective way to ensure that one of the most fundamental, and often ignored, safety measures is followed by all operators on all equipment at all times.

Speed Control greatly reduces the risk of accident due to loss of vehicle control and minimizes the risk of damage or injury in the event an accident does occur. It counteracts the inherent need for operators to use vehicle speed to meet the time pressures they are constantly under.

Fleet telematics can provide all of these critical safety and security measures and more.

The technology provides real-time awareness of what’s happening with every piece of aircraft equipment, and who is operating it, through the use of GPS tracking technology, on board equipment controls and cloud-based software connected by wireless communications.

It’s a cost-effective equipment option that should be incorporated into every new GSE purchase and retrofitted to existing GSE. It turns well-intentioned security strategies and manual processes into an automated and enforced safety management program that will save money in the long term as it protects people and property from accidents and injury every hour of the day and night.

Included with fleet telematics is enhanced audit and reporting features available in a central dashboard, so safety risks can be immediately and periodically reviewed, and any future potential issues can be mitigated.

Ground handler training

Your ground support equipment is only as good as the technology you pair with it and the ground handlers you have operating it. One of the best ways to foster a culture of safety is from the top down, with robust training to ensure that ground handling accidents are avoided.

Over the years, many programs have been created to enhance safety training among ground handling professionals.

The International Air Transport Association has a wealth of courses specifically designed to train ground handlers in enhanced safety practices.

Don’t risk costly collisions – train your team to proactively avoid accidents and work together to strengthen your ground support team’s safety.

Top-down guidance and incentives

When an organization has a strong culture of safety, driven from top management, it becomes a value that influences employees’ mindset and daily work.

In general, people respond well to incentives, and your ground support team isn’t exempt. Consider creating reward incentives for safe ground handling operator behavior, whether that be in the form of annual reward nominations or a pre-determined bonus structure with measurable safety goals.

You can determine good ground handling operating behavior from the features mentioned above as part of fleet telematics technology.

Consider publicly highlighting and acknowledging ground handlers who demonstrate an excellence in dedication to safety through awards, recognition at staff events or in staff newsletters, positioning them as ground handling safety ambassadors.

Collision-avoidance technology

Give your ground handling team the intel and insight they need to prevent collisions with a comprehensive collision avoidance system.

In 2017, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) updated Chapter 9 of its Airport Handling Manual to specify that belt loaders and other types of ground support equipment would require anti-collision technology to enhance ground support safety.

While anti-collision technology varies, it’s important to get the right anti-collision technology for your ground support equipment.

A comprehensive collision avoidance system includes:

  • An alert when a belt loader is within a specified distance of an aircraft
  • An automatic stop feature when the belt loader comes within a certain distance of an aircraft
  • Aside from cosmetic scratches or dents, aircrafts can be seriously damaged from a belt loader collision, even causing a delay in flight until repair.

Belt loaders are unique from other GSE in that the height of the equipment puts it at a higher risk for aircraft contact, specifically the fuselage (main body) of an aircraft.

If the composite structure of an aircraft becomes damaged, the aircraft may need to be stalled until repair, causing tens of thousands of dollars not only in repairs, but in downtime due to flight delays.

Avoiding ground support collisions is not as straight forward as it appears at surface value. There are dozens of ground support equipment operating in conjunction with one another on any given day, including cargo tractors and transport, tows, loaders, fuelling vehicles and lavatory vehicles, to name a few.

An advanced collision avoidance system is specially designed to different between other GSE equipment and an aircraft, so it doesn’t create a “false positive” alert, which can be common in the bustle of daily ground support operations.

By keeping your lines of communications open, utilizing fleet telematics and collision-avoidance technology, successfully training your staff and creating incentives and rewards, you can avoid unnecessary accidents by successfully fostering a culture of safety in your ground handling operations.

Avro GSE is part of the Saskarc Group of companies.

Avro GSE is one of North America’s full-service ground handling equipment suppliers, with a 25-year history of equipment sales and support, we know the urgency of reducing downtime and we understand the pressing need for immediate support.

For ground handlers and major airlines who are facing tighter deadlines, increased turnarounds and increasing pressure to meet on-time departures, Avro GSE offers innovative and cost-effective solutions with leading-edge GSE equipment, a comprehensive fleet management system and maintenance packages that enable our customers to service the most demanding environments safely and efficiently.

Avro GSE is challenging the status quo in the aviation industry by delivering a complete package so our customers can capitalize on synergies between our service offerings and achieved efficiencies, visibility, reliability, and compliance within their fleet.