Airport Operations Human Factors: Injury Prevention

Airport Operations Human Factors

Injury prevention to baggage handling personnel

Injury prevention forms an important part of the airport operations human factors. The causes for the injuries are similar to those contributing to the aircraft and equipment damage. Hence preventing one will help preventing the other. Ergonomics is the name of the human factor component related to the physical body and related tasks and equipment design. The baggage and freight handlers experience the most number of injuries during the airport operations. The manual handling of the baggage and stacking causes more number of injuries to the baggage handlers1

The advances in ergonomics (Human engineering) has resulted in continuous improvements in the design of flight decks and cabins of larger aircraft's, but there should be some improvements made in the areas below the cabin floors to increase the work space for the baggage handlers and thereby reducing the risk of injuries. Since the modern passenger transport aircraft's have narrow compartments for baggage, the baggage handlers are facing a significant proportion of manual handling problems. Manual handling problems refers to physical baggage movements such as loading, stacking and unloading of the baggage.

A survey was conducted by the Flight safety foundation2, which summarizes the opinions of 156 baggage handlers on the different tasks associated with baggage handling which poses severe injury risks. The baggage handlers were questioned based on the following aspects of baggage handling:

  • Work place location
  • Manual handling tasks
  • Engineering Redesigning strategies
  • Procedural and Administrative strategies

The results and analysis of the survey revealed the following

  • The results of the study showed that about 70% of the baggage handlers believed the narrow body compartments of the aircraft as the work place which caused more injuries. All the other work locations were not having any significant risk of injuries.
  • Among the manual handling tasks, pushing bags from the doorways into the compartments and stacking of bags inside the compartments were likely to cause more injuries to the personnel involved.
  • More emphasis was given by the baggage handlers to develop the in-plane baggage stacking and cargo stacking systems. About 78% of the baggage handlers wanted improvements in engineering redesign of the aircraft's to reduce the risk of injuries.
  • On developing procedural and administrative strategies, about 90% of the baggage handlers stressed on the importance of placing tag marks on the bags depending on their heaviness to alert the handlers. Improvement in baggage handling training and baggage handling systems were also the other aspects of importance specified by the baggage handlers.
  • The ergonomic problems of narrow body aircraft compartments have been identified and the aircraft design processes should take into account the incidence that causes the injuries to the handlers. The aircraft manufacturers are the key to develop a long term solution for reducing the risk of injuries to the baggage handlers2

Development of Injury prevention programs

  • The engineering redesign program should be developed by the aircraft manufacturers in developing modern narrow body aircraft's with an increased compartment space under the cabin floor, which enables the baggage handlers to work effectively without the risk of being injured.
  • The organizations should develop a safety policy which emphasizes that the employees are a key resource of the company and preventing injuries is very critical.
  • The organizations can train the employees on the principles of ergonomics and proper material handling.
  • The development and enforcement of occupational health and safety regulation should be improved. If engineering solutions cannot be found for manual baggage handling problems, the occupational health and safety regulation can be used to yield an alternative solution.
  • Air Transport associations should play a major role in setting up global standards that accounts for the problems occurring in manual airline baggage handling.
  • An industry wide solution should be developed based on the consensus of baggage handling,for example: reducing the weight of each individual baggage and the airline and cargo companies should label the baggage with the contained amount of weight so that the baggage handlers can prepare for each lift and can assess the injury risk.
  • Ground equipment and aircraft loading systems should not only be provided but they should also be maintained to the desired standard. An equipment failure means manual handling is requires which increases the risk of injury to the personnel as they handle the loads which should be done by the machines.
  • Finally, Investigation can be established to determine the contributing factors and an investigation report can be prepared to establish rules and procedures which help in eliminating the risk of injuries1

Result of a successful Injury prevention program

The employee injury rates show a decrease and the discussion of the human factors issues between the management and employees are improved which may reduce the cause of errors and injuries. Program objectives focus on both employee injury reduction and prevention of equipment damage.

1. FAA (2007). Operator’s manual: Human factors in airport Operations. Retrieved from ATC Vantage Inc on 06 September 2011.
2. FSA (1998).Airport operations - survey of airline baggage handling personnel. Retrieved from Flight safety foundation on 06 September 2011.

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OSHA Ergonomic solutions
This page offers more details about occupational safety and health administration in airport operations.

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

Gokul KrishnanGokul Krishnan

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