herald

Friday 6 December 2019

Sleepy plane worker could have died after he was locked in hold

Man slipped into hold for a nap
Man slipped into hold for a nap

An airport worker who went into an aircraft hold for a sleep could have died after he was mistakenly locked in shortly before take-off.

The worker only escaped after a passenger heard loud banging and shouting coming from the hold.

A loading supervisor had signed off that the hold was empty without properly checking and was sacked for gross misconduct by his employer.

The supervisor sued for unfair dismissal arising from the incident on October 5, 2016 at an un-named Irish airport.

However, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer Brian Dalton threw out the claim after finding that a reasonable employer could dismiss an employee for such a serious breach.

In his findings, Mr Dalton stated: "Unless a passenger had heard the load banging and shouts of that employee, a fatality could have occurred.

"This was a serious incident. The supervisor had a duty to check the hold.

"His failure to adequately and thoroughly complete that check was a very serious omission.

"The holds were locked, and an employee trapped in the forward hold.

"The signing of the loading instructions document by the claimant stating that the forward hold was empty was clearly not the case.

"This omission was a serious breach of policy and clearly gave rise to a serious safety incident.

"On balance, a reasonable employer would class this omission as gross misconduct."

The service provider told the WRC hearing that if the passenger had not heard the worker's banging and shouting, "the employee who had slipped into the hold to sleep could have died if the oxygen in that hold had been turned off".

Warning

The employer said: "The forward hold where the employee had slipped in to sleep is small and about six feet wide.

"The loading supervisor is responsible for signing off for the unloading and the loading of the aircraft.

"A thorough check would have clearly shown that an employee was asleep in the forward hold."

The loading supervisor accepted that the incident was serious.

He said he did check the hold and saw no one in it. He said a final written warning and retraining would have been a more just decision.

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