AZ Family: Addressing outdoor working conditions at Sky Harbor Airport

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – It’s now been 26 straight days of temperatures above 110 in Phoenix, and city leaders want to ensure companies are protecting people working in this dangerous heat.

“It’s really, really important for employers to think a little bit more deeply about the conditions,” Phoenix Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari said. “And what they’re asking people to do.”

Regarding the outdoor working conditions for some at Sky Harbor, Ansari said some of the concerns she heard from workers included not enough access to water, not enough breaks from the heat, and needing a doctor’s note to qualify for a sick day. “We want to make sure that everybody who is operating at Sky Harbor is treating each and every worker with the dignity and respect that they really deserve,” she said.

The Sky Harbor employees Ansari spoke with are not contracted through the airport but through Prospect Airport Services, which works with airlines directly.

In a statement to Arizona’s Family, a spokesperson said the company launched a training campaign in June to re-educate employees on heat-illness awareness and prevention. She also said that employees can access several refrigerated water coolers in an air-conditioned breakroom area to cool off between flights. She also said employees can bring water or Gatorade aboard a plane while working, in addition to a spray bottle to keep things cool.

Ansari says her conversations told a different story. “This question of water bottles being allowed on the plane was brought up quite a bit,” she said. “And the employees mentioned that was something that was very much not encouraged by their management.”

Ansari says she plans to speak with city managers to see if there’s a need to update city policies. A Sky Harbor spokesperson says in addition to the airport providing free water refill stations, they also postpone non-critical outdoor work during extreme heat and schedule time-sensitive outdoor work to occur at night or early in the morning.

As travelers came and left Sky Harbor airport this afternoon, some shared their thoughts on how those airport employees working outdoors should be treated. “I think management should give those guys breaks every hour if necessary,” said George Evans. “It gets pretty hot out there, that sun beating down on you. You can pass out pretty easy.”

The Prospect Services spokesperson said that employees are aware they can tell their lead employee that they need to stop and get water at any point during their shift. But Vice Mayor Ansari says those she spoke with said the break rooms and the shift supervisor were often on opposite sides of the terminal from where they were working.

Read this article on AZ Family.

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