FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - More than 20 workers who assist the sick, elderly and disabled at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have filed complaints about unsafe work conditions.
Celius Jospeh and others discussed the issue Thursday, noting they've filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. They claim the companies they work for - Superior Aircraft Services, Bags, Inc. and Direct Airline Services, U.S. Airways, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airlines - violated passenger safety by not properly training and equipping wheelchair attendants.
The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/10mR8kA ) reported the workers aren't given gloves or sanitizer. This leaves them at risk for exposure to blood-borne pathogens and violates passengers' rights. The complaints cite the federal Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel regulation, which require carriers operating aircraft with 19 or more passengers to train employees to assist disabled passengers.
Joseph, who is a wheelchair attendant at the airport, told The Herald he hasn't been trained to clean up blood or urine, but he does it all the time.
He said a passenger recently had a gash from his knee to his ankle and was gushing blood while sitting in the wheelchair. Joseph, who works for Bags, Inc. and Superior Aircraft Services, said he cleaned the blood with a paper towel from the bathroom, which he held in his bare hand. He said that's the way he cleans blood, urine and vomit from the wheelchairs he uses to transport passengers.
Other workers said they often don't know how to help disabled passengers.
Thursday's press conference was organized by the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which filed the complaints. Regional spokesman Michael Allen said OSHA has opened a file on the case and he hoped to get results within two months.
The union's spokesman Eric Brakken said the problems are symptoms of cost-cutting by corporate offices.
Superior Aircraft Services CEO Barry Korman told The Herald the statements from his employees are "just lies."
He said workers had filed complaints to the National Labor Relations Board in April and that he plans to sue the union.
Bags, Inc. spokeswoman D'Anne Mica issued a statement saying no workers had reported exposure to blood-borne pathogens. She added that employees are able to pick up gloves when the clock in each day. She said they are trained to deal with blood.
Union spokesman Brakken said the issues are serious, but fixable.
Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com
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