OSHA, the National Safety Council, and 13 airlines have allied to address ergonomic issues related to baggage handling, reports Michelle Garetson March 2003 OSHA Administrator John Henshaw announced in November 2002, that a collaborative...

Game Plan
The Alliance consists of the following companies: Air Canada, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, American Trans Air, America West Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Midwest Express Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.

Over the next year, OSHA and the participants will review five specific points for improvement.

  1. Review and provide input on ways to improve OSHA's e-tool, which is found on the organization's website.
  2. Conduct a one-day seminar for participating airlines and other interested aviation participants on OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).
  3. Conduct a one-day seminar with airline and OSHA personnel to provide information and to discuss ergonomic issues, solutions and limitations related to handling passenger checked baggage.
  4. Educate interested parties on and solicit ideas for ergonomic improvement associated with handling of checked baggage during a national safety-related conference and possibly other venues.
  5. Develop a biomechanics-training module for workers who handle checked baggage and make that module available free-of-charge to all airlines.

This agreement will remain in effect for one year from date of signing and will automatically be renewed annually thereafter.

Measuring success
A team of Alliance members will meet at least quarterly to develop and execute an action plan, determine working procedures, and identify the roles and responsibilities of the participants. OSHA will also offer the opportunity for representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association and the association of state Consultation Projects to participate in the Alliance.

Other parties the group hopes to incorporate incrementally into discussions include: labor unions, ground handling companies, baggage manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, Customs, the TSA, airports - literally anyone involved with checked baggage handling.

According to Lindsey, OSHA has been extremely proactive in soliciting assistance from the industry as well as helpful in moving the program forward. The alliance is continually reviewing the five initial goals and implementing ideas for improvement. He is also interested in hearing from others in the industry with respect to best practices or ideas to present to the Alliance.

United's Schneider says the team has been working hard to enhance the OSHA e-tool and says that a significant amount of changes has been submitted and will be added to the OSHA website in the near future. Another goal on the front burner for review is that of preparing a presentation regarding OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).

"Our first year is dedicated to baggage handling," says Schneider. "We believe employee training is very important. Involving our baggage handlers is critical to the success of our ergonomic program. Our employees are out there everyday and know the right way and the wrong way to do their job."

Employees have many ways of submitting ideas, including directly to the safety department or through their union representatives. "Everyone in the alliance is dedicated to the safety and well-being of their employees," says Schneider. "The whole goal of the alliance, to bring together the best practices for employee safety, is really going to benefit everyone in the airline industry."


American Airlines

National Safety Council
1121 Spring Lake Dr.
Itasca, IL 60143-3201
(630) 285-1121

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
1-800-321-OSHA (6742)

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