Dec 27 United Continental Holdings Inc
will install new conveyor belts and take other steps to improve
worker safety at its Newark Liberty International Airport hub in
New Jersey, after federal inspectors found hazardous conditions
in its baggage handling operations there.
The U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday said the accord
resolves its August 2015 lawsuit accusing Chicago-based United
Continental of committing a serious violation of the federal
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
The Labor Department said United's settlement could become a
template for other carriers.
"United Airlines is setting a workplace safety standard that
other airlines will be compelled to follow," Jeffrey Rogoff, the
department's regional solicitor in New York, said in a
United is the largest airline at Newark Liberty, scheduling
close to three-quarters of its flights.
According to the Labor Department, "below-the-wing" handlers
who moved baggage between United's aircraft and terminals, and
within terminals, were forced to bend, lift, reach or twist
awkwardly when collecting items on conveyor belts, loading
gate-checked baggage at passenger jet bridges, and loading and
unloading baggage in aircraft cargo bays.
As a result, there was increased risk of musculoskeletal
injuries such as back, shoulder, and neck strains and sprains,
and handlers reported at least 622 such injuries between 2011
and January 2015, the department said.
Under the settlement, United agreed to hire a consultant to
examine repetitive stress and injury risks in its Newark Liberty
baggage handling operations and adopt the consultant's
recommendations or similar measures within two years.
United also agreed to form a dedicated ergonomic safety
committee, and pay a $7,000 civil fine.
"The safety of our employees and customers is our top
priority," United said in a statement. "We are reviewing our
ergonomic practices in order to further improve the work
environment for our employees."
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie