Verdi calls for BER Airport closure after employees suffer electric shocks
If you thought BER’s embarrassments were behind it, think again. Just two and a half months after the German airport opened, the union Verdi is calling for passenger handling at Terminal 1 to be stopped, citing concerns over worker safety. More than 60 incidents have been reported of employees sustaining electric shocks from security equipment.
Security workers at Berlin-Brandenburg Airport receiving electric shocks
Verdi is demanding that operations at Terminal 1 at the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport, which opened at the end of October, be stopped again. A number of workers have reportedly received electric shocks from the x-ray machines in airport security - and the problem is apparently getting worse.
On January 6 alone there were eleven documented cases, four of which resulted in the emergency services being called out. In total, Verdi says there have already been more than 60 cases of this type, with workers reporting severe pain, numbness and drowsiness as a result of the shocks. In some cases, employees received electric shocks so strong that they were taken to hospital and afterwards signed off on sick leave.
The federal police, who are responsible for the airport security checks and the devices used by staff, confirmed that there had been problems with electrostatic charges coming from the equipment. “These do not usually lead to injuries, but can cause startled responses,” a spokesperson said.
Employees given anti-static keyrings to help
The police said that there were no technical issues with the equipment: “After the first reports, the federal police immediately called on their own specialist staff, specialists from the manufacturer of the control devices and from the airport operator. A resulting expert report has meanwhile confirmed that all systems comply with the applicable standards and recognised rules of technology.”
They suggested that the incidents might occur more often when employees wear clothing with a high synthetic content or are wearing insulating shoes. In response, security employees have been recommended to wear “Electro Static Discharge” shoes. They were all also given anti-static key rings that could discharge voltage.
But employees say that the shocks haven’t stopped. “So far, all attempts by the federal police and the security company have not led to a solution,” said Verdi regional head Benjamin Roscher.
The union is accusing the airport and the federal police of “gross negligence”. “As a union, we are calling for work on the devices concerned to be stopped immediately and until the technical cause of the occupational accidents has been found and unequivocally eliminated,” said Roscher. They have suggested that airport traffic, which is already low due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the industry, should be handled via Terminal 5 in the meantime.