Baggage handling is a crucial part of the airline industry. According to USA Today, commercial air carriers in America transport more than 400 million checked bags every year. Many of these bags pass through Chicago or through airports elsewhere in Illinois. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has studied the risks of manual baggage handling and formulated a set of ergonomic guidelines to help handlers avoid work injurywhile moving luggage. The science of ergonomics is concerned with safe and efficient movement in a working environment. In the dangerous, fast-moving profession of baggage handling, this science is crucial for the health and safety of employees.
Risk factors of manual baggage handling
According to OSHA, the following risk factors make manual baggage handling especially dangerous for airline workers:
- Large, heavy or unusually shaped luggage
- Unevenly balanced loads
- Handling loads in a small and awkward space such as the cargo hold of an airplane
- Repetitive stress over the course of a long workday
- Fast-paced work at peak transit times
- Baggage falling from a height or becoming snagged in machinery
All six of these factors are present during an average day on the ramp. Just one of them can lead to serious injury or even total disability.
Ergonomic practices in baggage handling
Airline employees can decrease the chance of a serious accident or a repetitive stress injury by following OSHA’s ergonomic guidelines for baggage handlers. Ramp agents must use correct lifting techniques every time they handle a bag or package, lifting from the knees rather than bending and twisting the back. Before starting their shift, they should perform stretches to relax the muscles and get ready for the day’s work. According to OSHA regulations, all bags over 50 pounds must be labeled clearly with heavy luggage tags. Baggage handlers should never throw or catch bags because of the increased risk of injury due to acceleration and deceleration.
Implementing ergonomic guidelines on the baggage ramp
These guidelines have the potential to cut down significantly on the number of workplace accidents in the airline industry. By training employees, posting information about ergonomic techniques, maintaining OSHA standards, and rewarding best practices on the job, airlines and airports can keep their employees healthier. OSHA regulations are enforceable by Illinois law, and workers have the right to report their employers if they are being forced or expected to work in an unsafe manner.
Ergonomics can help baggage handlers enjoy longer and healthier careers. Consider talking with a workers’ compensation attorney to find out more about safety issues in the baggage handling industry.