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Safety Is Everyone's Business (Mar/Apr-05)
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Terror In The Skies Revisited (Sep/Oct-04)
How They Got Hurt (Jul/Aug-04)
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Working Safely On Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts) (May/Jun-03)
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When OSHA Arrives (Jul/Aug-02)
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OSHA 300 Form (Jan/Feb-02)
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How Much is a Life Worth? (Sep/Oct-01)
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It's Up To You To Protect Your Skin (May/Jun-01)
When You’ve Been Handed the Responsibility for Safety (Mar/Apr-01)
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The Importance of Material Safety Data Sheets (Sep/Oct-00)
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Lockout/Tagout Program (May/Jun-00)
OSHA Violations, Citations and Penalties for 1998 (Mar/Apr-00)
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General Machine Principles (Nov/Dec-99)
SAFETY SOLUTIONS
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SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Terror In The Skies Revisited

During some recent trips I was shocked at what I saw while I was flying on a large airline. Before I tell you what really bothered me on that flight, let me take you back to September11, 2001.

Remember that day? Remember how shocked we all were when we saw those two airplanes hit the twin towers in New York City? Remember how other people gave their lives and when the Pentagon was struck by the airplane? Well I do. I remember walking into my office and there it was on every news channel. America was under attack. I saw the planes hit the towers and I cried. Why did I cry? Before I went out into the consulting field, I worked for Allied Signal Aerospace, Lockheed Aerospace and then as Corporate Manager of Technical Support for Boeing.

People who work in the aerospace field work hard to ensure that we make a safe product and that it is free from all hazards. We are proud when we see these products take flight and we are saddened when one of our products crash. I have been in the safety, health and environmental field for going on 33 years and I still get emotional when I see or read about people being hurt either on or off the job.

Still wondering where I am going in this newsletter? On September 11, 2001 terrorists gained access to the cockpit of an airliner and the rest is history. Did we learn anything from that accident? I think not. Sure we have increased security at our nationís airports. Our bags are checked and x-rayed by the government, we have to go through the scanners, unload our computers, take off our shoes and we even hear of sky marshals being put on the aircraft. But let me share a story with you. It was written by Mr. Adam Scott last year.

Terror in the Skies

By Adam Scott

A passenger tried to force his way into the cockpit of a United Airlines plane on a flight from Miami but was subdued after the co-pilot hit him over the head with a small axe, the FBI said.

The incident began when Pablo Morcira, an investment banker from Uruguay, could not find the magazine he stowed in the overhead compartment. Enraged that someone had stolen his magazine, Morcira demanded to see the pilot. Surprised flight attendants did not believe Morcira to be drunk or high on drugs but noted that he was “acting crazy” as he marched toward the front of the plane.

In accordance with new FAA regulations for international flights, the cockpit door was securely locked. However, when Morcira began kicking the door like a lunatic, the captain promptly opened it. “The kicking was awfully similar to our secret knock”, said Captain James Ramos later. While he admits it was dangerous to give a lunatic easy access to both the cockpit and a small axe, Ramos concedes that he was anxious “to see who was there.” The small axe used to subdue the passenger was a hotly contested addition to standard cockpit equipment.

Brazilian authorities were contacted as soon as the deranged banker hit the floor. The FBI is treating the incident very seriously in the wake of other “airplane related incidents” and a full investigation was commenced even before the subdued Morcira regained consciousness.

Reacting to the potential disaster, United Airlines President, Rono Dutta announced that he has changed the secret knock from incessant frantic pounding to something more sophisticated. Investigators did eventually find Morcira’s missing magazine. It was under some extra blankets.

I live in Minneapolis where a different large airline has its main hub. On a flight to North Carolina, I was speaking with a flight attendant and explained that on my last two trips to Canada, right in the middle of the flight, the cockpit door was opened and the captain came out of the cockpit and kept the door open to pour a cup of coffee and have a chat with the flight attendant.

The flight attendant told me that she had not heard of anything like that before. She stated that It was the airline’s policy to; “ensure that if the captain or co-pilot has to leave the cockpit that they are trained to ensure that they are between the door and the other passengers and that one of them must go into the cockpit and be there until they can validate that it is the proper person returning to the controls”.

As we were speaking another flight attendant opened the cabin door and stood speaking to the captain. I told her, “quick take a look; one of your company employees is doing it again.” She looked shocked and stated; “I can not believe it.” To make matters even worse, in the first class section of the plane people were eating their lunch using real steel knives. I asked her about the steel knife and she stated that her company has gone back and forth on this issue. Try to take a knife with you through an x-ray machine at the airport and you will be surrounded by the police.

Now do you think there is something drastically wrong with this picture? Have we learned anything from the events of September 11? In the safety field we like to use the words changed behavior? I think not.

The next time you fly, pay attention to what is happening. Watch out for your own safety because what I learned from these two recent flights, coffee was more important than my safety.

I contacted the airlines customer service department to file a complaint. I spoke with a person there and heard the same old story: “I do not know what the company policy is and when I fly on the airlines, I am usually asleep.” She stated that she would take my complaint and finished with, “The next time I fly, I will try and stay awake.” I have also contacted the President of this airline to really voice my complaint.

So are the skies safe when we are in flight? No, not as long as these types of conditions prevail. Should we be more concerned about safety on the airlines? I hope so. If you have had a similar experience, please let me know. Lets all work together to change these types of actions and behaviors. Remember this statement, “It is either safe or it is unsafe.”

If I can ever be of assistance please contact the magazine and we will be there to help you. Thanks for reading.


Editor's note: Creating and maintaining a safe work environment is a challenge we all face on a daily basis. The Safety Solutions column was created to help you stay aware of the issues facing your company. Jack Podojil has covered a wide range of topics from “In-plant Air Monitoring” to “Machine Safety” and “When OSHA Arrives.” Our website features an archive of thirty articles covering an array of topics. Jack has a lot more to talk about although he also values your feedback. If there is a topic you would like him to explore, please e-mail him, or the magazine and we will do our best to address it.

For more information, click on the author biography at the top of this page.

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