New reports on risks to airport workers from loading baggage

An British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Research Report has been published
earlier this month based on the findings of a collaborative project at East
Midlands Airport.

The research project explores the health risks associated with manual loading
of bags into the holds of narrow bodied aircraft. The report also examines the
effectiveness of new technology, Extending Belt Loaders (EBL), and provides an
update on previous research and studies.

The research was a collaborative project carried out with the co-operation of
the airport, airlines, ground handlers, manufacturers of ground support
equipment and workers' representatives, with the aim of improving understanding
of the risks and developing agreement on good practice.

"It was important that we had a good spread of organisations in the group so
the ideas and views of both the industry and employee representatives could be
shared, and we could get agreement between all the industry players on
implementing improvements" said Christine Barringer, Head of Transportation
Section, Services, Transportation & Safety Unit of the Health and Safety

The research into this report was carried out at East Midlands Airport in 2007
with a view to clarifying the real risks involved, and reducing the risk of
injury and ill health to baggage handlers. The report provides a strong case
for the task and some current work practices to be re-designed to reduce the
risks. Evidence is also drawn from previous work by the HSE, (a report by
Tapley & Riley, 2005).

Some key findings are:

  • The task of baggage handling should be mechanised as much as possible.

  • Baggage handlers should avoid lifting bags to/from low level (from ankle
    height) and to/from a high level, (above shoulder height).

  • All organisations involved in the baggage handling process - the airport, the
    carriers, the handlers and the Ground Service Equipment (GSE) manufacturers - must learn to co-operate and communicate with one another to achieve the
    necessary standards.

Working together and communicating more regularly are identified as key to
progress this particular area of risk reduction. Were organisations able to
better collaborate, says the report, identifying and implementing ways of
improving baggage handlers' physical safety would be facilitated.

More info - Source: Health and Safety Executive