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Airport ground crews face many workplace hazards

Pilots and flight attendants often get the most attention among airline employees, but the ground crew and their roles they play remain a vital part of an airport's inner workings.

It's a job with a variety of duties as members work inside and outside the terminal. They may check passengers in for flights and help with security checks. Outside, they will load and unload passenger bags from the aircraft and maneuver steps to the aircraft so passengers and crew can disembark.

Muscle injuries, temperature extremes, noise levels

They face a number of work-related hazards that most in the working world cannot imagine. The list includes:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries - Physical demands can be harsh for ground crew members who are more susceptible to injuries from sprains and strains due to loading and unloading baggage that may be more than 75 pounds. Wheelchair attendants may have to push passengers who weigh up to 400 pounds; lift passengers while in awkward positions; and juggle baggage at the same time.
  • Temperature extremes - Humid and scorching temperatures to bone-chilling sub-zero conditions are not uncommon for in a ground crew when they are outside loading and unloading a plane.
  • Diesel emissions and carbon monoxide - Spewed from aircraft, these hazards can cause nearby workers to get headaches, fatigue, and lose consciousness.
  • Noise - Extreme noise levels from aircraft engines can cause hearing loss.
  • Workplace stress - This may run the gamut from heavy workload and inadequate training to unpleasant physical conditions.

Wear the right gear, get the right training

What must airline ground crews do to overcome some of these conditions? There are a number of things all focused on safety. They may include:

  • Perform stretching exercises before your work shift. Your muscles will be more flexible, and injuries may be prevented.
  • Bend your knees when lifting. This will minimize the strain on your back, and consider wearing a back brace that can be worn under your clothing.
  • Wear the right protective gear. To combat noise, wear earplugs or earmuffs for protection. In the cold weather, wear winter coats, gloves and hats.
  • Get the training you need as provided by your employer.

Millions of people rely on air travel making our nation's airports busy and occasionally congested. Airline employees see this first hand, and face a number of workplace challenges. Remember that by law, employers are required to provide a safe workplace for its employees.

If you have suffered an injury while working at an airport, you may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Speak with an attorney if you have questions about a claim.

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