GERMANY: A case of intoxication on board an aircraft recognized as an occupational injury

Home > The news of EUROGIP and occupational risks in Europe > GERMANY: A case of intoxication on board an aircraft recognized as an occupational injury

This is a first in Germany. The Transport BG (Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr) recognizes as an occupational injury an intoxication caused by the contaminated air of an aircraft cabin. 

The facts go back three years. Lufthansa flight 116 was starting its landing at Munich Airport on 23 June 2013 when an acrid smell was released in the cabin of the Airbus A321 D-AIRM. An air hostess showed signs of intoxication after landing and had to be hospitalized. She did not work for more than six months.

Despite independent expert medical appraisals, in which the symptoms were able to be linked to the incident which occurred on board and hence to the workplace, the Transport BG adopted a defensive position and refused to pay benefits. The air hostess filed a suit with the labour tribunal in Hamburg.

It was only during the proceedings that the Transport BG changed its position and recognized last May the existence of an occupational injury, clearly to avoid a legal decision which would set a precedent in the area of labour relations. It is the daily newspaper Die Welt which first mentioned the case.

The federal bureau for enquiry on aircraft accidents (Bundestelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung, BFU) is now in the hot seat and must investigate whether this is a “serious incident” or an “accident”. Questioned by the Aviation Herald, it admitted that it had been informed at the time of the incident that occurred on board flight LH116. The case had been classified in 2013 as “an accident or serious incident not requiring an enquiry”, reports Die Welt, quoting a spokesperson for the authorities.

Pilots and onboard personnel have in the past criticized the fact that the BFU did not open enquiries after reports “of fume exhalations” and that it confined its action to examining the technical documentation of the aircraft involved. Many cases were apparently classified quickly.

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