Airside Ergonomics

Health and Safety Airside Ergonomics By Richard Rowe April 2001 Ground support is one industry where work-related repetitive injuries have taken a terrible toll. GSE Today reports on efforts by one U.S. company to drive down the cost of such...

This is not to say that NATA likes to see people hurt at work. The lobbying against the new rule stemmed from an appreciation that activities such as ground handling by very definition involve the kind of bending, twisting, and turning that cannot be legislated against. Emphasis should instead be placed by the industry on working hard to minimize the impact of such activities rather than having to fend off what NATA described as "overzealous" rulings from the government.

Politics aside, some ergonomics specialists certainly feel that MSDs are preventable. One such organization is PACTS Inc., a research and development, manufacturing and distribution company with nine years experience providing solutions specific to the air cargo industry. Collaboration with several carriers in developing and testing products has created ergonomic solutions that the company says improve product functionality while reducing costs.

Interestingly for readers of GSE Today, the company’s commitment to research and development of products that reduce MSDs is specific to GSE personnel. Unlike costly ergonomic office products designed for specific tasks, PACTS says that its products are designed so that the operator exerts the least amount of unnecessary strain while performing the same tasks.

"Improving health and safety issues for the ground support industry is quite a fresh outlook," Pete Agtuca, the founder of PACTS, told GSE Today. "Each product has undergone extensive field-testing and can be found in use by airlines throughout the U.S.

"One challenge we encounter is spreading the news that there are safer and more efficient products available to buyers. Ramp personnel recognize the safety and functionality improvements compared to standard equipment."

In working with its customers, PACTS has been able to develop and test products with ergonomic solutions in mind. "Each product stands as a cost-effective way to prevent or reduce MSDs and increase safety while boosting productivity and workplace morale," explains Agtuca.

Successfully tested and implemented products are the company’s Ergo-Wands ™, Ergo-Chocks ™, and Hi-Visibility Chocks. Meanwhile, products currently being tested include Ergo-Clipboards, a Laser Alignment Device, and an "Arctic" Option Chock.

The company’s Ergo-Wands are used for marshalling aircraft or vehicles. Their lightweight and compact design have enticed operators such as FedEx, American Airlines, and Swissport USA to purchase thousands of units to enhance ground crew response to arriving and departing flights. Each unit consists of two collapsible marshalling wands that store in a pouch. Pouches are reflective and are designed with belt loops for attachment.

"Ergo-Wands are 66 percent lighter than standard wands, reducing the MSD risk of awkward and static postures," claims Agtuca. "They emit an equivalent amount of lumens and require less energy by using 2 AA batteries each. Battery replacement costs are approximately $0.60 compared to a standard wand’s D size at $2.80."

Meanwhile, Ergo-Chocks are aircraft and truck chocks designed using triangle and hexagon engineering models in the frame. As Agtuca explains, the FOD-free patent pending design blends aluminum alloys with rubber to create a lightweight chock that is strong and durable. Industrial grade reflective tape meets DOT and ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 reflectivity standards enhance the chock’s nighttime visibility.

"Fatal accidents caused by black rubber chocks being struck by drivers on ramps at night can be better prevented through the use of this ultra-reflective chock," believes Agtuca. "The frequency of minor accidents caused by black chocks is difficult to measure."

The PACTS founder says he personally knows of three minor accidents in the Seattle area that resulted in sprains to the driver’s neck, wrists, or thumbs. PACTS met its design goals for the Ergo-Chock by reducing its weight by 33 percent compared to the all rubber black chocks. Boeing 727 main gear chocks made of all rubber can weigh up to 70 pounds--the same Ergo-Chock weighs 47 pounds. Goals also achieved include reflectivity standards that reduce nighttime collision risks and the Arctic Option currently in the testing phase. "The Arctic Option uses low profile ice cleats that extend enough to grab ice and not damage tires," explains Agtuca.

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