Alliance - an OSHA Cooperative Program

Ramp Area » Semi-Automated Loading and Unloading

Image of passenger airplane in flight

The wide body aircraft may have either an automated or semi-automated loading system. Potential hazards involve transferring baggage from baggage carts to the airplane, stacking the bags in the cargo bin, and transferring the baggage from the airplane back to the carts. The most common hazards are found in the following areas:

For additional hazards, see these sections in the manual loading module:

Figure 1. Vertical position of beltloader when unloading the carts.

Potential Hazards

  • Positioning the bottom (end closest to the cart) of the beltloader too low may cause agents to bend at the waist when placing or removing baggage. This can lead to unnecessary stresses on the body.

  • Positioning the bottom of the beltloader too high may cause agents to raise their shoulders or extend their elbows away from their body when placing or removing baggage.

Figure 2. Vertical position of beltloader when loading the carts (between waist and chest height).

Possible Solutions

  • Adjust the height of the bottom of the beltloader to assure optimum lifting heights based on loading conditions and the type of cart used. Place belt at a height that will ensure good posture while lifting baggage to and from the belt and baggage cart.

    • When unloading the cart, the vertical position of the beltloader should be level with or just below the cart bottom. (Figure 1)

    • When taking bags from the beltloader to the cart, raise the belt to at least waist height. This reduces bending and facilitates loading by working with gravity (moving from a higher location to a lower location). (Figure 2)

Figure 3. Vertical position of beltloader when loading the cargo bin. Figure 4. Vertical position of beltloader when unloading the cargo bin.  Figure 5. Secure the railing.

Potential Hazards

  • Positioning the top of the beltloader too low forces agents to bend and lift bags up to put them into the cargo bin.

  • Positioning the top of the beltloader too far away from the cargo bin may require agents to reach to pull bags into the compartment.

Possible Solutions

  • Position beltloader at the edge of the cargo compartment opening to minimize gaps so agents do not have to reach to access items.

  • Elevate and place beltloader inside the cargo bin when loading so items are deposited close to the agent. This minimizes reaching, pulling, and pushing. (Figure 3)

  • Place beltloader at or below the lip of the cargo bin when unloading so items can be placed on the beltloader using pushing and sliding motions rather than lifting. (Figure 4)

  • Secure the railing on the beltloader before entering and exiting the cargo bin. (Figure 5)

Figure 6. Large or heavy baggage.

Potential Hazards

  • Handling heavy, awkward, and large bags in a limited space places the agent in stressful positions that can result in injury. (Figure 6)

  • Frequent lifting may lead to insufficient recovery time and muscle fatigue.

  • Performing extended reaches while working in limited spaces can stress the neck and shoulders.

Figure 7. When pulling or pushing bags, use this kneeling position.

Possible Solutions

  • Educate ramp agents about proper lifting techniques to increase awareness of good work practices.

  • Alert loading and unloading crews when heavy bags are coming.

  • Slide baggage close to the body by pulling the handles.
    • Minimize twisting by kneeling at an angle to the belt in the direction of loading.
    • Kneel on both knees when pushing bags or balance on one knee and one foot. (Figure 7)

  • Stack large or heavy bags on the bottom.

  • Allow mechanical assist devices, such as a sliding carpet, to bring baggage close to you.

Figure 8. Kneeling in cargo bin.

Potential Hazards

  • Kneeling in the cargo bin can strain the knees, especially when handling heavy baggage. (Figure 8)

  • Jumping out of bins or off of equipment causes trauma to joints.

Figure 9. Use kneepads when working inside the cargo bin.

Possible Solutions

  • Use kneepads to reduce contact trauma and abrasive injuries when kneeling on hard surfaces. (Figure 9)

  • Walk down beltloader to exit the cargo bin.

  • Educate ramp agents about proper lifting techniques to increase awareness of good work practices.

Figure 10. Loading bridge.

Potential Hazards

  • Taking gate-checked baggage by hand from gate to cargo bin places stress on the worker's shoulders and back, especially if the bags are large or heavy.

  • Taking strollers, wheelchairs, or other oddly shaped and heavy items up or down loading bridge stairs can be dangerous, especially during wet or icy conditions.

Possible Solutions

  • Use a hand truck or small manual cart to move individual items of baggage over long distances.

  • Use chutes, slides, or mechanical lifting devices.