Health And Safety In The Aviation Industry

Health And Safety In The Aviation Industry

Published May 27, 2021

4 minute read

The aviation industry is always striving to provide a safe, secure, and healthy working environment for employees, passengers, and pilots. That’s why safety measures are so important within the industry.

The aviation industry is key to the day-to-day running of the global economy. Not only does it help get the world’s population from A to B, but is also a huge component of global logistics for the trade of goods, with both of these helping to support $2.7 trillion (3.6%) of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.

Yet, the ever-increasing strain on major airports has led to the need for shorter flight turnarounds. 

This increased pressure, alongside the likes of high turnover and thus less trained ground staff has led to soars in injuries on the ground within the industry.

Whilst there have been increases in this area, this is not to suggest that health and safety hazards stop here - there are countless hazards across the industry for workers and customers.

Here at EcoOnline, we have compiled a list of some of the top hazards to look out for in the aviation industry, as well as some recommendations on how the risks can be reduced. Utilizing software to reduce risks can help ensure the highest level of safety for aviation professionals - giving you an automated and consistent way of managing all potential hazards.

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Baggage Handling


Manual handling and lifting are significant hazards in countless sectors. However, recent studies by the HSE have found that just under 40% of all injuries in the aviation sector come because of handling and lifting.

Such injuries can occur from lifting luggage:

  • At very low and very high heights
  • Over the typical 20kg limit
  • Too frequently with few breaks
  • In awkward positions whilst loading the aircraft.

Simple yet effective solutions to lower the risk of a great deal of these hazards occurring include:

  • Stricter check-in weigh-ins, ensuring that the domestic maximum hold luggage weight has not been passed.
  • More stringent training in lifting and handling.
  • Better HR management - allowing staff to take more frequent, well-earned breaks.
  • Investing in mechanical aids to support the baggage handlers wherever strains can occur. 

With such a huge proportion of the injuries coming from these activities, such investments and process changes can only lead to a healthier and happier workforce, as well as a more efficient operation. Understanding the risks associated with baggage handling, too, will help decrease injuries. Risk assessment software is a viable way to ensure your organization is aware of and handling all potential risks.




Working at Height


Preparing aircraft for take-off can be a very labor-intensive activity, and in many cases, means that employees must work at height. 

However, year on year there are reported injuries of employees working in these conditions.

Working at heights is a major hazard in many aviation workplaces due to the need for frequent maintenance activities on aircraft components located high up off the ground such as wings and fuselages.

Employers should ensure that their employees have been adequately trained in safe working practices before allowing them to work at heights and should provide them with appropriate fall protection equipment such as harnesses and lanyards when necessary.  

Employers should also regularly inspect any fall protection equipment provided to employees for signs of damage or wear and tear so that it can be replaced if necessary.

Whether the employees are maintaining, or simply entering or exiting the aircraft, more must be done to ensure that the risks involved with these activities are minimized. 

Working at height risks can be minimized by…

  • Conducting thorough risk assessments regularly
  • Providing stable working platforms where working at height is necessary
  • Increasing supervision whilst employees are working at height



Moving Vehicles


Runway vehicles are not just limited to the aircraft – the likes of fuel tankers, baggage trucks, and mobile aircraft steps are all heavily present across the tarmac. 

This traffic, alongside the inability to hear the vehicles due to the aircraft noises, presents a large risk to the health and safety of all in and around the moving vehicles.

To minimize the risks of being struck by a moving vehicle, you must...

  • Wear high-visibility clothing at all times on the runway
  • Keep to designated walk-ways
  • Remain as alert and vigilant as possible when moving from place to place
  • Continuously risk assess the environment.

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Noise pollution is one of the most prominent hazards associated with aircraft operations. Aircraft engines generate large amounts of noise.

This can have serious implications for workers’ hearing if they are exposed to these loud noises on a regular basis over long periods of time.

To prevent this, employers should provide their employees with appropriate hearing protection gear such as ear plugs or ear muffs when they are working close to aircraft engines or other loud machinery.

It's no secret that airplanes create noise, with the average jet take-off having a decibel level of a staggering 100-120dB at 35 meters distance.

This may not concern the average person passing through airports. However, persistent exposure to this noise can cause severe and permanent damage.

The risk of damage can be reduced significantly by ensuring that all relevant staff are equipped with high-quality ear defenders, and areas where ear protection is necessary are properly identified


Poor Lighting


Low lighting is often essential for parts of runways throughout the night to avoid confusing approaching aircraft. Although this is a requirement to prevent further hazards, the low lighting presents a risk to ground staff, both walking and in moving vehicles, due to the lack of visibility. 

To reduce further risks, it’s important to ensure that all staff wear high-visibility jackets at all times when in such situations and take extra care by giving wide-birth when coming close to runways and aircraft.




Exposure to Contaminants


Aircraft engines release various types of contaminants into the air, such as oil mist, fuel vapors, and particulate matter from exhaust gases. These contaminants can pose a significant risk to workers’ health if they are inhaled over long periods of time.

More importantly, these chemicals also pose a variety of health hazards including skin irritation, respiratory issues from inhalation exposure, allergic reactions from skin contact, eye irritation from splashes or mists, and long term illnesses such as cancer from prolonged exposure.

To minimize chemical hazards in aircraft operations it's important to follow manufacturer guidelines for proper storage and usage; provide appropriate PPE; provide training on chemical safety; monitor employee exposure levels; post warning signs where necessary; establish spill response protocols; and regularly inspect work areas for any potential chemical exposures.

Employers should provide their workers with respirators or other protective equipment whenever they are working around aircraft engines or other sources of airborne contaminants.

In addition, employers should also monitor levels of airborne contaminants using appropriate testing methods regularly in order to ensure that contamination remains within acceptable levels at all times.

With such high-risk environments such as those at airports and on the runways, more and more aviation companies have begun to invest in health and safety software solutions such as EcoOnline EHS with a view to identify hazards and reduce the risk of harm wherever possible.

The use of such software promotes a safety culture, improves communication, regulation, and implementation on the matter, and can ultimately create a safer environment with fewer injuries. Saving aviation companies thousands of pounds down the line. 


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Author Leslie Duroe

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