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The safe way to be an airport baggage handler

The Denver International Airport is considered the world's second-largest based on land area. With more than 52 square miles, it's even larger than Manhattan. And like Manhattan, the airport welcomes millions of visitors each year and also has an ice skating rink, but not quite as famous as the one at Rockefeller Center.

With crowds that sometimes reach close to 200,000 per day, Denver International Airport must do its utmost toward catering to travelers. This includes restaurant workers to serve them food; custodians to clean up after them; pilots, flight attendants and traffic controllers to guide them; and baggage handlers to ensure that their luggage makes it to the right destination.

Strenuous job, workplace injuries

Baggage handling can be a strenuous job in lifting numerous passenger bags per day, while being under great pressure for speedy turnarounds. After all, that flight should try to leave on time. However, working in such a stressful environment can lead to workplace injuries.

You're lifting and maneuvering bags of all weights and sizes. Some are heavy, while some are awkwardly shaped. How do you lift a package that's the size and shape of a giraffe? Repetitive stress injuries aren't uncommon among baggage handlers, and can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, aching knees, and damage to muscles and tendons.

Lift, stretch and train

If you want to maintain a long and safe career working as a baggage handler at an airport, here are some tips to consider:

  • Learn proper lifting techniques. It's not just your supervisor's responsibility to train you, because you, too, must take initiative. Doing so just may help you avoid an injury. For example, bend your knees when lifting.
  • Use carts or dollies to store and move large and heavy luggage. Don't try to handle them by yourself.
  • Learn about and perform stretching exercises that will loosen your muscles and joints, making them more flexible. Athletes do this, because it helps them play longer and prevents potential injuries. The older you are, the more important stretching becomes.
  • Don't attempt to catch falling baggage, because it may strike you and cause an injury. Airport workers are recommended not to throw baggage, but this commonly happens due to time constraints. If you throw luggage, make sure it doesn't strike an unsuspecting worker.
  • Look where you are going, and avoid a slip-and-fall injury. You don't want to fall because you overlooked a puddle of water on the floor. Also, make sure to wear good shoes.

In some ways, baggage handlers are getting a physical workout without having a gym membership. But as any exercise trainer knows, it's important to stretch and use common sense when using certain gym equipment. The same goes for nearly any job that imposes physical stress on your body.


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