Recommendations for Safe Baggage Handling

Recently published reports revealed suggested methods for the manual loading of bags into narrow-bodied aircraft.

  • This study shows that extending belt loader (EBL) type technology significantly reduces musculoskeletal risks through the mechanization of the transfer of bags down the hold and improvements in posture and lifting. Therefore the GB aviation industry should consider using such technologies as a way to partly mechanize the task of handling baggage within the hold of the aircraft (NB: in-hold systems when used in combination with advanced belt loaders are considered to offer similar risk-control benefits)
  • For the external on and off-load of bags the vertical level and lift distance of the bags is more favorable when using a belt loader compared to direct to hold loading from the ramp. Mechanical means should therefore be used in place of direct to hold loading wherever appropriate
  • The high-risk manual movement of GSE should be avoided and the following methods of mechanization should be explored: pedestrian-controlled tugs, pedestrian-controlled powered GSE, and driveable GSE
  • Means of risk reduction and control should also be explored for the other ancillary manual handling operations that handlers perform. For example, the baggage cart positioning, and the placement and collection of cones around the aircraft. Where some form of mechanical assistance is already in place, ensure that it is used. Further training and supervision may be required to achieve this
  • A suitable means of access and egress to the aircraft for baggage handlers should be identified and provided, both in terms of avoiding falls and enabling effective working postures. For example, for staff working on flatbed lorries there is no edge protection and there is restricted headroom and footing, which leads to more twisting and sideways bending when handling

The findings of the research reports were considered by industry representatives at a meeting facilitated by the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) Aviation and Aerospace Group, with some very interesting results. The initial feedback from the workshops has now been circulated and will be available on the IOSH website.

The next stage is for the industry to agree on good practice and systems of work — HSE will support this work to ensure that the risks of MSDs in baggage handling are properly managed by all, at all GB airports.

Information on the air transport industry and on MSDs and assessment tools can be found on the HSE Web site at

About HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for the regulation of occupational health and safety in all workplaces in Great Britain. As part of the HSE Policy Group, Transportation Section is responsible for health and safety policy development and partnership working with industry sectors, employers, employee representatives and other regulators in air transport, ports, road haulage and warehousing.

Additional Links

Air Transport web pages

HSE Manual Handling Assessment Chart (MAC) Tool

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