To a passenger at Denver International Airport, the baggage handling process may appear seamless. The passenger drops a bag at the ticket counter, and if all goes well, it shows up at the passenger's destination as if by magic. But airport workers know what really happens behind the scenes. They know all too well about the physical effort that's required to get a suitcase from one airport to another, and about the injuries that airport workers can suffer as they perform their daily work duties.
Eley Law Firm has prepared three blog posts about injuries that airport workers can suffer as they handle bags, suitcases, boxes, and odd-shaped items during the baggage loading and unloading process. The first of these blog posts focuses on baggage handling injuries at the ticket counter. Subsequent posts will cover injuries in the bag make-up room and at the ramp.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created an e-tool covering work injuries resulting from airport baggage handling procedures. It's worthwhile reading for any airport worker who is involved in the baggage handling process.
The section covering the ticket counter notes that agents can suffer back and shoulder injuries when they:
- Bend over to tag bags.
- Lift items with only one hand. This can put intense stress on one side of the body, and cause hand fatigue.
- Twist the torso to move bags directly from the bag well to the conveyor.
- Use extended arms to lift and move bags.
- Bend over rails and bollards to move bags.
- Lift odd-shaped or excessively heavy items.
- Lift bags from the floor in front of the ticket counter while standing in the bag well.
Though not related to baggage handling, OSHA also says that ticket agents can suffer carpal tunnel syndrome through prolonged use of keyboards.
How to minimize injuries at the ticket counter
OSHA also provides some tips for ticket counter agents that can reduce the possibility of injuries. Agents should:
- Perform stretching exercises at the start of their shifts.
- Tag bags in the bag well rather than first lifting the bag behind the counter and then tagging it before moving it to the conveyor.
- Tag excessively heavy bags as such and get help from another person to move them.
- Ask the passenger to place a bag in the bag well rather than leaving it outside the bag well for the agent to retrieve.
Ticket counter agents who do suffer work injuries related to baggage handling or their other duties should speak to a workers' compensation attorney who is experienced in airport work injury claims.