According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 7.5 cases of nonfatal occupational injuries per every 100 employees in the air transportation industry. The agency reports that 5.5 of those cases will result in missing time from work, having to perform the job in a restricted fashion or getting transferred to a new job.
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As any airline workers compensation attorney would know, there are a number of hazards facing those who work in air transportation. One of those involves operating baggage tugs and carts. By understanding the potential dangers involved, workers can hopefully avoid a serious injury.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, people who work with baggage loading and unloading face different hazards depending on what kind of system the airline uses. For example, manually handling each piece of luggage means workers are exposed to lifting and carrying heavy loads as well as uneven loads, which can increase the risk of injuries to the musculoskeletal system. The repeated lifting motion also does not leave enough time for someone’s muscles to recover before taking on another load.
According to Airlines for America, several additional threats to these employees include the following:
- Equipment rollovers
- Equipment malfunction
- Unsafe driving practices
Workers interested in increasing baggage tug safety should heed the following pieces of advice:
- Use proper technique
Perhaps the most important part of any job is to ensure that all workers have been trained on the equipment and any other techniques related to their safety. OSHA suggests that agents who work with baggage should learn how to properly lift heavy items. The agency notes that this combined with stretching to loosen muscles and joints can prevent injuries.
When carts are heavily loaded, workers should not attempt to move them manually. In situations in which there is no other option, there should be enough people working to move the cart so as not to exceed the recommended pushing force limit. Additionally, each individual cart should be unhooked and moved on a one-by-one basis instead of all at once.
- Cart positioning
Workers should be trained on how to position baggage carts when approaching a belt loader. OSHA advises that carts should be at least 3 feet from the loader in order to discourage workers from repetitive twisting. Parking at least 3 feet away will mean the worker has to pick up the bag and turn to walk to the belt loader instead of simply twisting the back.
OSHA states that when more than one person is working, the cart may be positioned perpendicularly so all workers have easy access to the loader. When just one person is attending to the luggage, the cart should be placed at an angle for ease of use.
- Inspect vehicles
Airlines for America reports that equipment problems pose a serious threat to workers. Therefore, prior to use, employees should perform a thorough inspection to ensure that everything is in prime condition. For example, tires should be checked for any cracks or tears and properly inflated. All engine fluids and fuel should be above the minimum level.
A critical part of this safety check is the horn. In an emergency, the horn alerts people to danger and are especially effective in significantly noisy areas. Workers should always ensure that the horn is properly working. The lights, steering, brakes and transmission should also be tested prior to putting the tug in use.
- Safe driving
As any airline workers compensation attorney would know, operating the vehicle leaves room for human error. Through following the speed limits and transporting baggage only in the appropriately designated areas, workers can increase their safety while on the job. Airlines for America suggests that operators should drive at a walking pace while moving through congested areas. Workers moving baggage to a non-adjacent gate should use the vehicle service road whenever possible.
Similar to those driving on the road, baggage tug operators should always keep a safe distance from any vehicles ahead of them. Keep in mind that maneuvering can be more complex due to the number of carts that are towed. Workers should always be aware of how big and heavy their loads are.
Lastly, many of the rules of the road apply to people driving baggage carts. Anytime the road conditions are slippery, drivers should practice caution. Any available seatbelts should be worn. No operator should ever use a personal electronic device while behind the wheel. Further, only authorized personnel should be in charge of driving the baggage tug.
- Avoid tipping
One of the main ways workers can prevent carts from tipping during transport is to inspect the hitch before putting the cart in motion. The hitch should be tightly secured to the bag tug or cart. There are several different types of hitches, and only workers familiar with the mechanism used should be inspecting it. Once secured, the hitch should be tested. Workers can grab onto the tow bar and pull it sharply upward, checking to see if the hitch opens.
Safe driving will also keep spills and turnovers from happening. Anytime a driver approaches a turn, the speed should drop. Sharp or abrupt movements should be avoided at all costs.
Despite all these precautions, it is still possible for an on-the-job injury to occur. Anyone who has such an experience may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, which should cover the cost of medical expenses and time missed from work. People with questions about this matter should consult with an airline workers compensation attorney.