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The health and safety hazards faced by airport ground handling staff

The health And Safety Hazards Faced By Ground Handling Staff

The health and safety hazards faced by airport ground handling staff are many, varied and extremely challenging. These challenges will again be the focus of UK Airport Safety Week (which kicks off on 14th May 2018). This annual event, developed and co-ordinated by the Airport Operators Association, will take place at 52 UK airports, addressing ongoing safety issues in the industry and focussing on overcoming some of the most dangerous conditions in the campaign to keep airside staff safe.

Organisational hazards

Airport ground staff face a number of challenges in how their working day is organised. The stress of working to tight turnaround times, while upholding optimum safety standards and the challenges of shift and night work, can take its toll on ramp agents, aircraft marshallers, pushback crews, and maintenance and repair staff. Solutions include robust programmes and policies that promote safe working environments and balancing demanding operational and financial pressures with providing sufficient staff to maintain safe working environments.

Physical work risks

Airside workers can be exposed to extreme weather conditions, lightning strikes, and excessive noise and vibrations from aircraft during landing and take-off and noisy ground operations equipment and vehicles. Not having the right protection can lead to permanent hearing loss, so adequate hearing protection that’s approved for specific tasks is essential, along with training on how to use hearing protection in the right way, and performing regular equipment checks and hearing tests. Providing engineering and technical controls to reduce the noise produced by a machine or process, along with improving working techniques to reduce noise levels and limiting the time people spend in noisy areas can all help reduce physical work risks for airside ground staff.

Exposure to dangerous substances

Ground handlers can be regularly exposed to de-icing chemicals, hydraulic fluids, jet fuel and exhaust fumes that can be carcinogenic and neurotoxic. The main polluting substances around the airfield are nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide, and fine and ultrafine particles. Chemical substances used for maintenance, cleaning agents, and potential contact with biological matter from aircraft toilets are all risk factors to those working on the tarmac. Protecting staff by following best practice strategies such as substitution of hazardous substances, proper training and hazard information and handling guidance, supplying appropriate equipment and providing ongoing health surveillance and biological monitoring are crucial to minimise potential risks.

Complex ergonomic factors

Proper and ongoing training is essential to mitigate the risks of continual working in awkward positions, handling heavy loads and working in confined spaces. Baggage handlers, in particular, are at risk of musculoskeletal diseases. There are guidelines to minimise these occupational problems, such as using belt loaders for baggage, providing safe handling techniques training, implementing task rotation between workers, providing suitable breaks and rest periods, providing appropriate PPE and monitoring workers to ensure that they follow work procedures in a safe manner.


Accidents such as falls, slips and trips remain some of the most common hazards for ground handlers. Electrocution, vehicle accidents, falling objects, the risk of fires and explosions, and working with inadequate lightning can also lead to serious accidents. Following clear protocol around traffic regulations and traffic flow, adhering to guidelines around working safely on the ramp, and providing appropriate PPE, such as Contego Aviation Solutions high-visibility clothing and hearing protection can reduce the risk of accidents. The proper maintenance of vehicles and equipment is also paramount.

Contego Aviation Solutions offers a comprehensive range of safety and workwear products that meet the rigours of the working day for airside personnel in airport ground services and is constantly innovating to provide for the evolving needs of the ground service teams.

For help and advice, or details of the full Contego Aviation Solutions range download the Catalogue now, visit our website or contact our friendly team on 0800 122 3323 or