An airport identified a manual handling risk with towable aircraft steps. The steps are towed up to the side of aircraft to allow passengers to get on and off. The procedure was that the baggage trucks towed the steps to within 3 or 4 meters of the aircraft. They were then uncoupled and two or three staff would push the steps the final distance. When the force required to move the steps was measured it was found to be in excess of 700 Newtons which considerably exceeds the Manual Handling Operations Regulations guideline figures of 200N.
There was no ready-made solution to this problem. However, there are motorised electric tugs used for moving large caravans around parks and on display sites. One of these was purchased and adapted for use on the smaller sets of steps. The cost of buying and adapting the motor was minimal.
The converted motors have since been attached to two small sets of steps and work successfully. The batteries are charged overnight without the need to remove them from the stairways