Airline employees and airport workers know they are on the front lines of “a messy business.” One security guard employed in the international flights terminal at Newark’s Liberty International Airport told National Public Radio in March 2020 that he witnessed “people every day that cough, sneeze, and don’t cover their mouths or their nose.”
While airline and airport employees “come into contact with hundreds” of travelers every day, often having to clean up “vomit, mucus, and blood,” many of the same workers have claimed they lack basic safety equipment such as gloves and respiratory masks, even as the deadly and highly transmissible COVID-19 virus has swept around the globe.
The existence of a deadly new virus became public on December 31, 2019 when the People’s Republic of China reported to the World Health Organization that the disease had sickened persons in the Chinese City of Wuhan. The virus spread throughout Europe and the United States in early 2020, often carried on airlines as infected passengers continued to travel.Airlines, Airports, Other Employers Have Duty to Protect Employees, Contractors
Airlines have long known about the unique dangers that coronaviruses cause on airplanes. In 2003, a 73-year-old man infected with the SARS coronavirus flew on an airplane from Hong Kong to Beijing, infecting as many as 22 people on the flight. Crew members from the flight may have infected others on subsequent flights, after they became infected.
Flight attendants have long been on the front lines of potential virus exposure. The first known “in-flight transmission of SARS occurred in a female flight attendant who caught it from a family of three Singaporeans” on a flight between New York and Frankfurt on March 14, 2003.
Businesses have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect their employees and contractors from known hazards. For example, under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must:
- Provide a working environment free of known hazards;
- Assess conditions to ensure a work environment conforms to applicable standards;
- Ensure employees have proper tools and equipment to undertake their work safely;
- Establish and maintain procedures that ensure worker safety;
- Provide training on safety equipment and safety protocols;
- Adopt a safety and health program.
Employers in the airline industry, long apprised of the risks posed by coronaviruses, should have long ago adopted reasonable measures to counteract the spread of illness and protect workers and contractors. Whether measures taken by a specific employer provided reasonable protection to an affected worker will dictate whether a worker who has contracted the virus may maintain a legal claim against an employer.Personal Injury Lawyers in Charlotte Handle Coronavirus Negligence Claims
Airline industry workers who have become infected with coronavirus may face weeks or months of intensive medical treatment. The coronavirus symptoms, treatment of the virus, and the recovery process, can result in permanent injury, extensive out-of-pocket medical costs, and extensive pain and physical and emotional suffering.
If a worker in the airline industry has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus as a result of the negligence of an employer, the injured person may be entitled to damages for out-of-pocket medical costs, pain and suffering, and any permanent damage or loss of function caused by the infection.
Employers in the airline industry had a duty to take reasonable steps to protect workers from becoming infected with the coronavirus, including:
- Screening workers, passengers, and vendors for symptoms of illness;
- Quarantining workers who exhibit symptoms, and refusing boarding or entry to passengers and vendors who exhibit symptoms;
- Testing workers to see if they have contracted the virus and, if so, quarantining them;
- Inquiring into the travels of workers, passengers, and vendors, to identify those at the highest risk of exposure;
- Inquiring into the contacts between workers, passengers, and vendors with persons who may have been infected by the virus;
- Requiring all workers, passengers, and vendors to wear protective clothing and masks;
- Enacting social distancing measures to lower the risk of transmission between persons on airlines and in airline-related facilities;
- Enacting disinfection measures to clean surfaces within airlines and in airline-related facilities;
- Limiting or prohibiting travel to and from known virus hotspots, to reduce the risks of transmission.
If an employer failed to take reasonable steps to protect workers or contractors from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, a person injured by such negligence may be entitled to compensation. The professionals at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can assist workers in the airline industry who have contracted the COVID-19 virus.Negligent Transmission of Coronavirus Claims in Charlotte, North Carolina
If a worker or contractor has suffered an injury resulting from exposure to the coronavirus at work, the person may be entitled to reasonable compensation for the injury.
The best thing a person injured at work by exposure to the coronavirus can do is contact an experienced, local personal injury attorney. The professionals at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can assist injured workers preparing and filing claims against at-fault employers.
With offices in Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville, Arnold & Smith, PLLC handles personal injury cases across the entire State of North Carolina. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to set up a free initial consultation.