NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

AIRPORT SCREENERS' INJURIES COSTING TAXPAYERS

January 17, 2006

Federal airport screeners continue to have the highest injury rate among the nation's workers nearly two years after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) discovered the problem.

The rate of screeners injured on the job fell in 2005 to 29 percent from 36 percent the previous year, according to the latest TSA figures. But the rate remains higher than any of about 600 job categories tracked by the Labor Department.

Consider:

  • The injury rate for screeners far exceeds the 4.5 percent injury rate for the rest of the federal workforce.
  • The private sector rate was 4.8 percent in 2004, the most recent year for which Labor Department figures are available.
  • Screeners are five times more likely to get injured than coal miners and seven times more likely than textile millworkers, according to TSA and Labor Department data.

The nearly quarter-million injury days taken by the 48,000 full- and part-time screeners in fiscal year 2005 (ended Sept. 30) helped cause staffing problems in airport security. Screeners missed training days and violated federal law requiring checked luggage to go through bomb-detection machines because they were understaffed, according to the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security Department inspector general.

In addition, the TSA reports that injuries cost taxpayers $52 million in fiscal 2005 to cover wages and medical payments for injured screeners. To cut down on worker injuries, the TSA has moved luggage-scanning machines in airports so screeners don't have to carry suitcases far.

Source: Thomas Frank, "Airport screeners' strains, sprains highest among workers," USA Today, January 11, 2006

 

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