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OSHA Fines Airline $15k After Worker ‘Ingested’ by Engine

22 Jun, 2023 Liz Carey

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Montgomery, AL (WorkersCompensation.com) – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined American Airlines for its part in the death of an airport worker.

Courtney Edwards, 34, was working for a regional subsidiary of American as a ground agent at the Montgomery Regional Airport on New Year’s Eve 2022 when she died in what OSHA said was a “preventable” death.

OSHA fined Piedmont Airlines $15,625 after its investigation found the airline was responsible for a safety breach that led to Edwards’ death. According to the Communication Workers of America, the union Edwards was a part of, OSHA found the airline lacked effective training, clear and unambiguous communication on the ramp, as well as lacking clear instructions for supervisors as to when it was safe to approach an aircraft.

"The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or were likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees that were exposed to ingestion and jet blast hazards," the report from OSHA said.

OSHA issued a General Duty Clause violation that comes with a maximum penalty of $15,625, the union said.

“Despite the small penalty, it is likely Piedmont will contest the decision,” the union said. “CWA will continue to fight for Courtney Edwards, her family, and the safety of all airline workers, who should never fear for their lives on the job.”

A spokeswoman from Piedmont Airlines, Crystal Byrd, told the Dallas Morning the company is investigating the incident.

"Safety is always our top priority for our team members," Byrd said. "We appreciate the recommendations from OSHA and will ensure that a thorough review is accomplished."

OSHA’s penalty comes months after an initial report from the National Transportation Safety Board released in January was more favorable to the airline.

In January, the NTSB found that Edwards was “ingested into the engine” while working on the airport’s ramp where plane that ferried passengers between Montgomery and the Dallas-Fort Worth airports was parked. That report said the airline held safety briefings about staying away from the plane’s engines.

According to an NTSB, the airplane’s ground crew conducted a “safety huddle” about the incoming plant that day, including instructions on how to move around it. The ground crew had another briefing about 10 minutes before the plane was set to land. During that meeting the crew discussed that the engine should not be approached and that the safety cones should not be set out until the engines were fully off and spooled down.

However, the report said, since the plane’s auxiliary power wasn’t working, the pilots decided they would let the plane’s No. 1 engine run for two minutes to let it cool down. The pilots informed the airport they were not turning the engine off and that it would need to stay on until it could be hooked up to a power source.

After the plane pulled into the gate, the first officer opened his cockpit window and told a member of the ground crew that the engines were still on, according to the report.

Immediately after that, a warning light came on, the first officer said, and the plane shook violently just as the engine shut down. That was the moment Edwards was sucked into the engine, the report said.

Officials said Edwards was told to stay away from the engine by a co-worker after she was nearly knocked over by exhaust as she was trying to put down safety cones near the back of the plane. One of the ground crew members said he tried to warn Edwards to stay back and wait for the engines to shut down. Another crew member said he yelled at Edwards to move away from the plane, but shortly after heard a loud “bang” and then heard the engine shut off.

After the incident, American Airlines released a statement about Edwards death.

“We are devastated by the accident involving a team member of Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines regional carrier, at Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM),” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and our local team members.”


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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