Airport workers can suffer injuries anywhere, but those working in the ramp area are particularly vulnerable. Workers loading and unloading baggage onto planes must often perform their duties in cramped spaces which force their bodies into awkward positions. At Denver International Airport, ramp area baggage handling operations in winter are frequently complicated by severe weather conditions. Accumulation of snow and ice can increase the potential for accidents during the baggage loading and unloading process. Workers in the ramp area also risk injury from vehicles and hearing loss from excessive noise.
In this blog post, we look at some of the injuries that ramp area baggage handlers can suffer, and some ways to minimize the likelihood of such injuries.
How ramp area baggage handling injuries happen
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created an e-tool covering work injuries resulting from airport baggage handling procedures. The section on baggage handling in the ramp area looks at manual handling, semi-automated handling and automated handling:
- Workers can suffer injuries when they handle heavy, large or oddly-shaped items.
- Handling uneven loads or two bags at a time can result in injuries to muscles, ligaments, and the back.
- Parking a cart too close to the beltloader can result in repeated twisting and increase the possibility of injury.
- Parking a cart too far from the beltloader can needlessly increase a worker's exertions. It also increases the danger when there is snow or ice on the surface of the loading area.
- Regarding carts, back injuries can occur when reaching far into a cart to retrieve an item. Shoulder injuries can occur when removing bags from the second shelf.
- Positioning the end of a beltloader too high or too low relative to the cart can result in stress to the shoulders, arms and back.
- Inside the baggage compartment of a plane, workers can suffer back and neck injuries due to the cramped space or need to twist the torso repeatedly.
- Injuries can also occur when workers take heavy or oddly-shaped items down from the loading bridge.
- Pushing heavy carts or baggage containers can injure the back and shoulders.
How to minimize ramp area baggage handling injuries
OSHA provides these tips to reduce the likelihood of baggage handling injuries:
- Workers should perform stretching exercises at the beginning of each shift.
- Carts should be parked three to five feet from beltloaders to minimize carrying distances.
- If one person is working, position the cart at an angle to the beltloader.
- If two people are working, position the cart perpendicular to the beltloader.
- Do not throw baggage or attempt to catch falling baggage.
- Don't move heavily loaded carts or multiple carts manually. Use a baggage tractor instead.
- When loading baggage into a plane, position the end of the beltloader just above the floor of the cargo bin. This allows bags to be easily slid into the cargo bin.
- When taking baggage off a plane, position the end of the beltloader just below the lip of the cargo bin. This allows bags to be easily slid onto the beltloader.
- When taking heavy or oddly-shaped items down from the loading bridge, use the slide or shoot rather than manually carrying the item.
Despite taking these and other precautions, baggage handling injuries can still happen. If you have suffered an injury, speak to an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
Previous blog posts in our series on baggage handling injuries focused on the ticket counter and make-up room: