Ground Services

Will the US join Europe in introducing ground handling regulations?

Will the US join Europe in introducing ground handling regulations?
EASA's proposal for ground handling regulation at EU airports has led to calls for global standardisation - starting in the US (Image credit: @rebius/Adobe Stock)

In January, EASA published the first-ever proposal to regulate ground handling operations across EU airports.

The move was welcomed by the ground handling industry, which had campaigned for the introduction of regulation for years.

EASA hopes regulation will improve safety on the ramp, and, according to industry leaders, it will also reduce bureaucracy.

But whilst ground handlers celebrate this victory for their European operations, some have gone further to suggest global standardisation is the next step.

Steve Allen, CEO of dnata, is one executive who stated he would like to see regulation introduced in the US next.

He recently told ARGS: “I think the US has the most dangerous ground operations in the world.”

However, when approached about the industry’s push for global standardisation, the FAA wouldn’t comment.

Instead the regulator highlighted its requirement to have safety management systems (SMS) in place to ensure safety on the ramp.

In a statement, an FAA spokesperson told ARGS: “Airports and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration are primarily responsible for airfield worker safety.

“The FAA requires US airlines to have safety management systems. An SMS is a set of policies and procedures where companies identify, monitor and address potential operational hazards early on before they become serious problems.

“Airlines’ safety management systems should identify and address a wide range of potential hazards, including those affecting their airfield workers.

“When events occur, the FAA works with an airline to ensure its SMS takes into account and mitigates the factors that led to the event.”

In February last year, the regulator adopted a rule requiring more than 200 of America’s busiest commercial airports to have safety management systems too.

The timeline to fully implement SMS ranges from four to five and a half years, depending on the airports’ classification and operations.