Flight Attendant Injury


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Staff member
Thirty minutes prior to pushback, you hear a scream and a flight attendant gets her hand crushed by the lavoratory door in a freak accident.

She's obviously in pain and is visually distraught.

Her hand is also starting to swell horribly.

Situational Facts:

(a) She's out of sick time (would not be compensated for missing the trip)
(b) Single mother
(c) Thirty minutes prior to "pushback"
(d) Departure city is an 'outstation' (not at a flight attendant base)
Bottom line, she's in pain and her hand is swelling. Her hand is probably broken and she needs to get to a doctor.

Putting her broken hand aside, if she's unable to perform her duties, it compromises the safety of everyone on board the aircraft. I can't let her fly with us.

I would be sympathetic to her situation but unfortunately there's not much I could do to help her there. I would also be sympathetic to the passengers as getting a replacement would probably mean delaying departure, but if they fly ofen enough, they are never surprised when these types of situations arise.
LOL Doug! These situations are starting to sound like bar exam questions, you know, where your buddy is caught in a flaming gas tanker truck and he asks you to shoot him instead of being barbequed, and you have to decide what to do!

(a)+(b) indicate keep her on board. But, I would say that if she doesn't get medical treatment for the hand, depending on how bad, she could lose a lot more income than this one trip. So overall, the money factor shouldn't be a reason to keep her on.

I assume (d) means that a replacment FA is not readily available and therefore that (c) + (d) add up to the plane will proably be at least an hour late leaving. So then the question is, how much crap will you get from the company for delaying the flight.

I think the "best judgment" answer is delay the flight.

But the "real world" answer is: ask the FA if she can stand the pain for a couple of hours. If she can, get her some ibuprofen, have her ice the hand down and wrap it up for the swelling, have the other FA's cover for her regular duties, and hope that you don't have a crash or other event which would require her be fully functioning, in which case I assume the captain will be on the hook for departing w/o the required crew (a calculated risk).

This is very tricky - it doesn't quite strike me as a "fall on your sword" flight safety issue, but you really have to know the FA's attitude. Maybe she'll sue the company because you didn't let her off for medical treatment.
If her hand is swelling horribly and she is in a great deal of pain then most likely her hand is broken. Having a F/A perform their duty with a broken hand, even if they could, would compromise safety onboard. I would say get a replacement quickly or delay the flight. Wouldn't her disability coverage pay for the lost time?
Nope, there's no way she can fly with us and the flight would be delayed. If she loses her job yes it's sad and it would suck....but that's life in the big city and there's not much else you could do in this situation.

If you allowed her to fly u could risk passengers safety, her own safety, and who knows if u'd have to put down somewhere on route because her injury has turned even worse...
I would delay the flight until we could be ensured the swelling is stabilized or subsided. I have learned that the F/As are probably one of the most vital crewmembers on a flight sometimes. In our aircraft, there is only one, so maybe I'm partial. But even if there were 9 like on the L1011, this F/A is a required crewmember. No way I'm going to depart unless she has a replacement, or we get someone to take care of her hand in such a way where she believes she can conduct her duties with minimal assistance. By duties I don't mean meal service, because she won't be doing that today. By duties I mean directing passengers in an emergency, operating emergency equipment, etc.

Something to consider: You are on a 737-300 with 3 F/As. You depart with one that is injured and unable to perform many of her required duties. So she is hanging out in her jumpseat in the rear of the aircraft while the other two F/As are providing a meal service. Now, the meal cart unbrakes and runs over the foot of another F/A. His toe is severely cut and bleeding, and it hurts to stand. Now, you are down to one F/A who is fully able to perform all duties. It's like departing in a 727 with only two engines working. Wouldn't be very smart.
True Story:

I was closing the door on the EMB, and somehow (to this day I do not know how) I smashed my elbow on the control panel on the FWD bulkhead. It hurt like H*LL. I go in the tiny galley and shake it off, thinking "I'm alright, it's my last turn, I'm done when we get back." I do the weight & balance count, and stick my arm in the cockpit to hand it to the guys. My elbow starts dripping blood on the FMS. The CA turns around looks at me and says "you're bleeding on my airplane!" I didn't know until then that I had ripped a really nasty looking two inch gash in my left elbow. I didn't want to delay the flight, and I was pretty sure there were no ready reserves available. It was my last turn of a 4 day, and yes, I was out of sick time. We all looked at each other and just said a collective "sh*t". We called ops, my supervisor came out to the plane and escorted me to the UIC medical center at ORD. I think scheduling did find someone to cover for me, but when it came right down to it, I was not physically able to perform my job duties. I was barely able to open the door again when they parked the bridge to take me off. You gotta do what you gotta do, and sometimes that means making the hard decision and saying no, you can't fly.
I'd say, the final decision is yours. If you do not feel like you can go, then say so and we don't go. If you can, then we'll go. You tell me what to do.
Leaving it up to the injured person though might cause a problem, if she is the one sitting there thinking about how badly she needs her paycheck. She might not look past her needs and put the safety of the plane first. I would imagine she'd get some workers comp though. But I would think the best thing to do would be for her to get off the plane. You'd never know if maybe half way through the flight the pain could be completely unbearable or something, and by then you are in the air.
Many variables, but I would try to get as much information about the severity of the injury as possible.

What if you continued, and the F/A was injured furthur? If the hand is broken, it is not something you want to let sit around untreated. Surely your judgement to depart would be questioned if so. Could you be a liability in that case? Also, in the unlikely event of an emergency, would the F/A be able to assist passengers as is her duty?

After trying to find out how injured the person actually is, I'd be leaning more toward getting her help unless circumstances really needed us to go. Depending on the size of the plane the other F/As could handle the injured attendant's duties.

I'd talk to whoever needed to be spoken to, see if there is any possibility of getting a replacement, another flight at a later time, and make a decision from there..

I can't give a definate answer though, 70/30% in getting the F/A medical assistance and protecting your self. A late flight is less serious than some other things...

Edit: I had the part about the emergencies in there last night, but I looked today and it disapeared, weird.. Maybe I forgot to hit continue on my edit like I oh so often do.
I have no idea from an airline point of view however from an HR point of view, we were just discussing this a few days ago.

My opinion:

You can't let her just grin and bear it. Your are placing the company in a position of greater liability. If she just oretneds it never happened and goes on for the last flight and the injury gets worse becuase of something she was doing while working or from inattention mediaclly, the company is in deep pooh pooh for not taking care of their injured employee. Delay the flight if neccesary, send her to the doctor for treatment immediately and notify the company what happened.
I would notify ops, delay the flight and send her to get it looked at by a competant medical authority. I would also requst a reserve F/A to take her place. Hey accidents happen. It's on the job, so she'll get worker's comp, so there is no worries on not having sick days. She's a safety risk, so if I do a ORM, she's weighing heavily on the safe operation of the flight.
That's an easy one IMO.

1. Flight is delayed.We get her off the plane and into the hands of a doctor / EMT.

2. I make myself available to answer any questions the company may have about the incident and make it clear to them that this was an on the job accident.

She was injured at work so it's now a worker's comp issue. She most likely wouldn't be out of work permanently. However, the longer you let an injury of any kind go untreated the worse it can be. A worst care for this one is that she could loose her hand...not good for her or for her family.

I personally would get in touch with her when I got a chance and make sure that she was okay and that everything is being handled correctly. If not I'm raising holy hell with the company until it is.

almost same type of thing you'd have to do with a passenger if they were sick, ill or injured... allow them on the plane or get them off for liability...

doug - didn't you have that instance once on skyway where that woman hit her head upon enter the plane and got a concussion but still wanted to get to her destination?

almost gotta wonder - if it's a pax or a part of your crew - do you treat one differently than the other when it comes to injuries??
Yup, a lady fell on the ice in Madison, smacked her head and then was acting a little delirious during my passenger brief. I asked her if she was ok and wanted to seek some medical help to make sure she was ok.

She refused, but then after talking to the captain, I started having second thoughts about having her on the aircraft. We called out an ERT in Madison, they checked her out and discovered that she needed to get to the hospital quickly because she was becoming more unresponsive, dialated pupils and was starting to speak jibberish.

She spent about a week in the hospital with a severe concussion from her fall on the ice, missed some meeting in Los Angeles and then filed a lawsuit against Midwest Express Airlines (for missing her meeting), Skyway Airlines, Madison Airport Authority and the captain and I.

She dropped the lawsuit against the captain and I fairly quickly, thank goodness but I'm not sure about the rest.

Here the EMT's said we probably saved her life, but like a passenger is going to pass up an opportunity to sue an airline for a big fat monetary settlement!
Can't let her fly.

Regardless if she wants to "grin and bear it", I couldn't risk her being a liability to the passengers in the case of an emergency.

We may have to delay the flight, but she'd be getting proper medical attention and my pax would no be placed in a situation where an injured flight attendant might cause other, more serious problems.
Somebody ablove just touched on the issue...If you depart and she's really hurt, the company has been exposed to liability from her injury and real or percieved pressure to perform.

If you depart without a required crewmember and her services are required due to emergency, the families of the crash victims will find this out and expose the company to liability.

If you depart without a required crewmwmber and there's an FAA inspector on board, everybody is screwed.

If you delay the flight, and passengers get mad and decide to sue for a delayed departure, the company plays the safety card and the lawsuits evaporate.

Something to consider as well, in regards to the F/A herself making the decision. You don't know how injured she is, or how much pain she is in, or if she can perform her duties. But, at our company at least, many of our F/As are very young (19 or 20) and this is their first job. If they are fairly new, they are extremely worried about performing their job and not getting in trouble, since this job is vital to them making rent. So them might be more prone to saying "no it's ok, just hurts a little, I can do this." You can take them at their word, but you really need to take time to pay attention to them and see if they really are ok like they say. If you notice they are wincing, operating with only one hand, etc., it might be time you say "no, this can't continue" and delay the flight to find a replacement.