Monday, August 31, 2009

LAX wheelchair attendants file complaint with U.S. Transportation Dept. saying they are not adequately trained to work with disabled passengers


LOS ANGELES -- LAX wheelchair attendants August 26 filed a complaint with the U.S. Transportation Department, claiming their employer, Aviation Safeguards, does not adequately train them for working with disabled passengers.

A group of 15 employees delivered a copy of the formal final filing August 26.

In the complaint filed with the Department of Transportation three employees argue that in their two to five years of employment with Aviation Safeguards, there's been a severe lack of training resulting in potential harm to both passengers and employees.

"These last training that we had we just talk about, you know, the Aviation history, but we didn't really touch any wheelchair in the training," said wheelchair attendant Fanny Fuentes.

One example pointed out Wednesday was an Aviation Safeguard employee pushing both the passenger and the baggage cart at the same time. Fanny Fuentes is one of the three complainants named in the filing, and she says that should never happen.

"It is unsafe because you are not actually holding the passenger with both of your hands. So you end up either losing the bags or losing the passenger," said Fuentes.
"Well it's a little more complicated than it initially sounds. It's really important that these people know how to do their jobs well," said Nickolas Sifuentes from the Los Angeles Alliance for New Economy.

The complaint also alleges that the company fails to maintain its wheelchairs. Employees reported some wheelchairs have cushions that have fallen off, leaving behind screws that stick up causing potential injury to passengers.

"There was one report of a wheelchair attendant who accidentally tipped a wheelchair forward and the passenger came out of the wheelchair and landed on the ground," said Sifuentes.

A representative for Aviation Safeguards who appeared to be caught off guard by the group would not comment, other than to say the filing is baseless.

"Our employees are of the highest trained in the airport and none of these comments are true so have a nice day," said the Aviation Safeguards representative.

Aviation Safeguards employs around 700 people at LAX and 200 of them specifically to assist passengers who are wheelchair bound.