American Airlines fined after ground worker loses leg

American Airlines has today (4th June 2010) been fined £70,000 after one of its workers had to have his leg amputated following an incident at Heathrow Airport.

On the evening of 11 November 2008 ground support worker Kulwant Bhara, 45, from Slough, was preparing an aircraft at Terminal 3 at London Heathrow Airport. A 70-tonne ‘pushback tug’, used to move aircraft from the departure gate, had finished manoeuvring a plane into position and was leaving the stand.

The vehicle was reversing when it knocked Mr Bhara to the ground, running over his right leg. He fractured his right ankle and left heel and suffered cuts to his head and left leg. As a result of the incident, his right leg had to be amputated just below his hip.

Mr Bhara who has not been able to work since, said: The incident has effectively turned my life upside down and has affected both myself and my family drastically in a number of different ways.

“Because of the difficulty of mobility, the pain I am in and the overall effect of [the] incident it means that I am unable to involve myself in the normal family events. I have to be careful at all times because of the mobility I have lost in which most people take for granted.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation showed that the tug did not have reversing lights that it needed on that dark evening, or an audible reversing alarm.

American Airlines Incorporated, which has its UK offices in Staines Road, Hounslow already pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 24 and 28(f) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, at the City of London Magistrates’ Court, on 19 March 2010.

Today the company was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £10,581.25 at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey).

HSE Inspector John Crookes said:

“Mr Bhara suffered injuries of a life changing nature, which were in part due to American Airlines failing to follow internal guidance requiring modification to pushback tugs.

“By failing to identify the problems with this tug over many years, the company fell well below the expected standard of safety management for a major international airline.

“Vehicle movements are one of the main risks facing airside ground support workers in the aviation industry. This is why it is crucial for companies to ensure the vehicles are properly fitted with reversing lights and audible warning alarms.”