Judge Upholds OSHA Violations Against United Airlines for Worker Injury in 2021

Judge OSHA Violations Against United Airlines for Worker Injury in 2021

The airline faces a $14,502 penalty and a citation, both resulting from the initial investigation.

A federal administrative law judge has upheld safety violations against United Airlines stemming from a 2021 incident during which a technician's foot was crushed.

According to a recent release, the ruling—issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) on April 23, 2024—affirms a citation and a $14,502 penalty initially levied by OSHA. Despite the airline's attempt to appeal the citation, the judge ruled that United Airlines failed to implement preventative safety measures.

The incident occurred on November 24, 2021, when the technician's right foot was crushed by a Boeing 737 at Newark Liberty International Airport during a towing operation, resulting in the amputation of five toes. OSHA concluded that United Airlines violated federal safety regulations by not adhering to its procedures for plane towing. 

“United Airlines could have prevented an employee from suffering a debilitating injury had the company followed its own safety procedures for towing a jet weighing as much as 50 tons,” OSHA Area Director Joseph Czapik in Parsippany, New Jersey, said in a statement. “This operation is recognized by the airline industry as a dangerous and well-known hazard and proper procedures must be followed to prevent serious injuries or worse.”

The judge's decision highlighted that United Airlines exposed its technicians to serious struck-by and crushed-by hazards. The judge also dismissed the company’s defense of employee misconduct, noting that its failure to address violations of tow-safety rules contributed to the incident. 

United Airlines has filed a petition to appeal the decision.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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