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Airport Workers Suffer Brutal Shifts

03 Aug 2022

The aviation industry is struggling to deal with passengers post covid-19 and Brexit with many airports simply lacking the capacity and the staff to deal with the service that people expect.

The media has widely reported on the chaotic scenes at airports, looking at passenger cancellations and flight delays and the build-up to summer as people take their long-awaited and needed summer holidays abroad with scenes of frustration and long queues. There's also been coverage of chaotic scenes of lost luggage and passengers waiting for hours for luggage. But behind the scenes at airports during the terrible airport chaos of 2002 are airport workers suffering brutal shifts.

Here we highlight the current working conditions of baggage handlers, but there is a whole ecosystem of airport workers suffering brutal working conditions such as check-in staff.

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Airport baggage handlers are being paid as little as under £10 an hour, often in unsociable hours. They are currently overstretched working to shift an enormous and unrelenting stack of luggage which they often have to do alone.

Being overstretched is leading to fears that workers will end up being injured, with some workers already suffering health conditions as a result of the current situation.

An anonymous whistle-blower has said that workers have already been badly injured, and he fears something could "kill them if they make a wrong move" He said: "Weights are increasing, and they're crashing these guys through so fast. They're coming in knowing nothing, they have never worked in an airport or that type of environment before. There's no time to train somebody, and you are thrown in the deep end.

"You're working near to hundreds and hundreds of litres of fuel and the equipment we use is old, it often breaks and doesn't work. It's dangerous.

"They bring these young kids in off the streets and it's a baptism by fire. For every 10 we bring in, we maybe keep two or three."

A baggage handler at Heathrow airport said that"There are not enough baggage belts for the amount of flights. You could be waiting half an hour for a belt when a flight comes in. Within that half an hour, another flight will come in, which makes it 10 times worse. It's disheartening when you walk out and see all the passengers."

He feels the problems stem from a lack of investment - on top of recruitment problems - and added that some baggage is sorted on a system that is about 40 years old.

With inadequate training, and being overworked there is a risk that workers could suffer injuries such as RSI, back injuries, golfers elbow, tennis elbow or other general injuries. Many workers left the industry during Covid, positions which have not been filled as staff found alternative employment and now there is a general lack of workers to fill vacant positions. It's not just baggage handlers, other airport staff are at risk of injury as they are overstretched as passenger numbers surge post-Covid-19 with many blaming poor planning for the chaotic scenes at airports.

As airport workers continue to work brutal shifts, health and safety breaches are a real risk and we expect that we may see a rise in accidents at work claims from airport workers in the coming months. If you are an airport worker and you have suffered an injury whilst at work, get in touch we're here to help you.