Air Transport - FAQs

Getting started

What are the main health and safety issues?

Individual workplaces will of course, exhibit their own patterns of risk, but the main causes of accidents and ill health in the air transport industry are:

  • Incidents from aircraft turnround activities
  • Risks from baggage handling tasks
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Working at height

For some work activities there may be extra things that you need to do to make sure you are complying with the law.

What are the current load weight restrictions?

It is the responsibility of airlines and check-in staff to specify weight restrictions, weigh and label baggage.  If this is not enforced at the check-in stage then it becomes difficult for baggage handling organisations to control the risks.

Current industry recommendations in the IATA Airport Handling Manual include:

  • the maximum weight of any single piece of checked baggage should not exceed 23kg (50lbs), without prior arrangement. Although this limit is widely accepted, some airlines will accept baggage up to 32kg, and some foreign carriers have even heavier weight limits.
  • "heavy" tags/labels must be placed on all pieces of baggage which exceed 23kg with the actual weight shown on the tag/label
  • baggage belt weighing scales at passenger check in points should have an audible or visible warning when any individual bag weight exceeds 23kg.

Where heavy bags are identified but not labelled the airline should ensure that systems are in place to ensure weight limits are implemented and heavy bags tagged.

Training and work procedures should include provision for team lifting or alternative lifting methods.

How do I do a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is an important step in protecting your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. It helps you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace - the ones with the potential to cause real harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks.  For most, it means simple, cheap and effective measures to ensure your most valuable asset - your workforce - is protected.

The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as 'reasonably practicable'. More information on risk assessment is available at the HSE's Managing risks and risk assessment at work.

The law

What do I as an employer need to do to comply with the main health and safety law applicable to air transport?

As an employer, you must:

  • prepare a statement of safety policy and your organisation and arrangements for achieving the policy (written if you employ more than four people)
  • consult employees through safety representatives if your workplace is unionised, or employee representatives or directly if it is not unionised
  • appoint someone competent to assist you with health and safety
  • assess which workplace risks are significant
  • make effective arrangements to control these
  • carry out health surveillance where appropriate
  • set up emergency procedures including those for temporary workers
  • inform and train employees on the risks present and the arrangements in place to control them
  • co-ordinate procedures and work safely with others (these are likely to be airlines, handling agents and other service providers).

Who else regulates airports?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is a specialist regulator with specific responsibilities for:

  • Air Safety
  • Economic Regulation
  • Airspace Regulation
  • Consumer Protection
  • Environmental Research & Consultancy

The HSE and CAA have agreed guidelines which set out their respective roles and responsibilities for enforcing occupational health and safety in relation to public transport aircraft while on the ground and in the air.

Reporting incidents

What is a RIDDOR incident?

RIDDOR requires employers and others to report incidents such as certain accidents, some diseases and some dangerous occurrences that arise out of or in connection with work. These reports enable the enforcing authorities (either the HSE or Local Authority) to identify where and how risks arise and to investigate serious incidents and trends.

As well as a legal requirement to report such incidents, internal investigation by your organisation can assist you to:

  • identify trends in accidents and ill-health;
  • identify underlying causes;
  • establish the effectiveness of your management systems;
  • identify the need to review and/or improve such management systems.

Who do I report a RIDDOR incident to and how?

Work-related incidents should be reported to your own employer and/or the airport authority according to established procedures.

Certain incidents will also be reportable under RIDDOR to either the HSE or Local Authority. There is now a new RIDDOR reporting system in place.   Extensive guidance on how and what to report is found on the HSE website on RIDDOR.

What do I have to report to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)?

Certain types of incidents such as bird strikes, ice falling off aircraft, and any other incident reportable under the Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme (MORS) are reportable to the CAA.

What do I have to report to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB)?

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is part of the Department for Transport and is responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK eg aircraft collisions.


Who is responsible for my health during flights?

The CAA, under the Civil Aviation Act 2006, has a general duty to safeguard the health of all persons on board aircraft. This duty includes both passengers and air crew.

The Aviation Health Unit (AHU) is part of  CAA and provides further information and guidance on passenger and air crew health issues.

Passenger health issues and concerns can range from whether they need to be assessed to fly through to whether they can carry their medication on board. Detailed information on the range of frequently asked questions from passengers can be found at the CAA Aviation Health Unit website.

What are my passenger rights?

The CAA provides comprehensive guidance and information on passenger rights issues.

If you have a complaint or want to find out further information:

I am disabled or have reduced mobility – what do I have to know when flying?

You need to know your rights. Full details on what you should be aware of and what you need to do before you fly are explained on the CAA website.

What do I need to do if I am an airport operator, airline or ground handling agent?

Airlines, airport operators and ground handling agents  also need to have certain arrangements in place to help those who are disabled or with reduced mobility.

The Department for Transport have also published a Code of Practice  aimed at all those involved in providing services related to air travel, including travel agents, tour operators, UK airlines (scheduled carriers - both full service and no-frills - and charter carriers), aircraft designers, UK airports, ground handling companies and retailers. It explains the legal requirements and recommendations to improve the accessibility of air travel to disabled people and people with reduced mobility.  It covers the whole journey experience from accessing information at the booking stage through to arriving at the final destination.

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Updated 2024-02-09