Zurich-based airport ground handler Swissport has been recognised with the Innovator Award 2019 at the IATA Ground Handling Conference which was held in Madrid last week. The award was presented to Swissport for their role in the development of the “LiftSuit” which is described as being a wearable exoskeleton. It can be of help to prevent musculoskeletal injuries which are common for example among baggage and air cargo handlers.
Being a baggage handler at airports can be a very stressful experience for the body. It is said that on average an airport baggage handler lifts up to five tons in weight each day when loading
passenger baggage either into containers or directly into aircraft belly holds. Swissport themselves employ some 30,000 ramp and baggage handlers worldwide and are always busy looking at means of
how to improve health and safety measures for them.
The LiftSuit has been developed by Swissport during the past twelve months and the company states that there have been several prototypes tested before the end product became available. The LiftSuit is constructed so that when a worker bends down energy is stored and then released to support the employee when they pull the load back up. This process, they say, then leads to decreased muscle fatigue, which in turn lowers the risk of injury.
Arduous working conditions
The introduction of the “one bag check in policy” by many airlines has led to bags becoming heavier and heavier. Many carriers still allow 32 kilograms weighing bag check in on economy services and allowable baggage weights for business and first-class customers are in the region of 40 kilos. A tough job if you have to heave these into containers or aircraft bellies.
Maybe the LiftSuit can be of help for air cargo handlers
There is still a large amount of so-called loose cargo which airport cargo handlers have to either load onto aircraft pallets or store into ULDs. Loading a five-ton shipment of pharmaceuticals for example can be weary work when cartons can weigh up to 25-30 kilos each. On an average eight-hour shift, cargo handlers can be involved in building up to 15 - 20 pallet or container loads.
Stressed backs are often the result, leading to injury, layoffs and higher costs for handlers.
Swissport’s internal studies show that when wearing the LiftSuit a worker experiences a reduced muscle activity of 10-30%. The company says they are busy looking at further means of improvements for manual handling activities, one of which is a device which gives off an alarm and alerts the wearer once he makes a ‘high risk movement.’
High-tech for baggage and cargo handlers - a useful means of looking after your employees.
John Mc Donagh