A ground crew worker was trapped under a Qantas plane at Perth Airport after crashing a baggage loading vehicle into the aircraft, prompting calls for a safety investigation into the airline’s ground operations.
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has written to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and WorkSafe WA following the accident, alongside incidents at other airports, raising questions about Qantas’ move to outsource its entire ground operations.
The plane, a Boeing 737, was struck by the loading vehicle, on 21 May after it arrived in Perth from Melbourne.
The TWU said the crash was the result of the vehicle’s breaks failing and that the worker was trapped under the plane until it was moved.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said an investigation into Qantas’ safety standards is critical to ensure the airline is taking responsibility for worker and passenger safety after outsourcing all of its 2,500 baggage, ramp and cleaning workers in recent months.
“This is a major safety breach and could have resulted in the injury or death of workers and passengers,” he said.
Kaine said the accident is just the latest in a string of incidents that the union believe have also resulted from outsourcing, including understaffing, incorrect information being communicated to pilots about baggage weight on aircraft and workers forced to operate old equipment.
“We even have heartbreaking stories of a child’s electric wheelchair smashed out of use at Sydney Airport after it fell from a baggage belt it should never have been put on,” he said.
“We demand an investigation into what is happening at Qantas given that workers, passengers and safety are being failed so badly.”
A Qantas spokesperson said the airline is working with its ground handling provider, Menzies, to investigate the incident and that engineering works to repair the damage are underway.
“Menzies has provided ground handling services to the Qantas Group for decades and started providing these services to Qantas at Perth Airport earlier this year,” the spokesperson said.
“Ground handlers are required to abide by Qantas Group safety policies and procedures.
“The TWU knows full well that external ground handlers are no less safe, and in some cases their safety performance is better than work done in-house.
“When this work was done in-house, we had 0.8 aircraft damage events per 1000 flights compared to 0.4 for outsourced operations.
“Comprehensive safety investigations are undertaken after any incident to ensure learnings are captured and processes are updated if required.”
Featured image source: iStock/PomInOz