Report Examines Risks to Airport Workers from Loading Baggage

An HSE Research Report has been published on Monday, Jan. 5 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 cooperation 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 practices.

“It was important that we had a good spread of organizations 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 Executive.

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 redesigned 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 mechanized 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 organizations involved in the baggage handling process — the airport, the carriers, the handlers and the ground service equipment (GSE) manufacturers must learn to cooperate and communicate with one another to achieve the necessary standards.

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

To view the report findings: