Baggage handling

The manual handling of baggage and cargo onto and off aircraft presents a risk of manual handling injury to the ground handlers involved in these tasks. Similar risks are also present where baggage can be manually handled, for example security check-points, passenger check-in desks etc.

What you need to know

The main risk factors associated with manual baggage handling are:

  • pushing and pulling the equipment involved;
  • handling baggage inside the aircraft hold in particular stacking the bags;
  • the frequency and the weight of the bags handled;
  • handling bags below knee height and above shoulder height;
  • handling with the hand extended far from the lower back;
  • and a lack of effective management and supervision of the activity.

What you need to do

  • Use mechanical handling equipment to move bags into and out of the aircraft hold eg belt loaders, Extending Belt Loaders (EBL) etc. EBLs not only transfer the bag mechanically into the hold, they also carry the bag down the hold to the stacking point.
  • Use mechanical aids to move the work equipment used eg using a tug to pull a baggage cart into position by a belt loader or EBL.
  • Train all the people using the mechanical handling equipment and other associated equipment on how to use them safely.
  • Support the above measures with suitable training in safe handling techniques.
  • Rotate tasks between employees, for example working in the hold, working on the ramp, driving the tug etc.
  • Provide suitable breaks and rest periods including drinking facilities.
  • Provide appropriate personal protective clothing. This will typically include, kneepads, footwear and gloves. The footwear should have toe protection and provide suitable grip for smooth and wet surfaces. When working airside baggage handlers should also be provided with hi-visibility clothing and ear protection.
  • Monitor the people undertaking the work to ensure that they follow your procedures in a safe manner

Selection of staff and sickness management

  • Assess initial fitness for work – if necessary use an Occupational Health adviser or a health professional to comment on an applicants suitability.
  • Have in place a policy on sickness absence with a system to detect cases of work related ill-health including MSD and their subsequent management.

Case study: Aviance - assessment and treatment for MSD

This case study is provided by Aviance on health assistance for employees. The company offers immediate access to assessment and treatment for musculoskeletal injuries supported by physiotherapists.

Case study: Servisair - manual handling training for baggage handlers

This case study is provided by Servisair on improved manual handling training for baggage handlers and the benefits that this has brought to the company.

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Updated 2023-04-25