According to RTITB Airside, some airport operators and ground handling service providers are putting their employees at risk on a daily basis due to poor baggage tug operations.

“Baggage tugs are so common within everyday airside operations that they’re often thought to be one of the most simple pieces of ground handling equipment found at an airport,” says Laura Nelson, Managing Director of specialist training consultancy RTITB Airside. “However, they actually feature in more airside incidents than almost any other ground handling equipment and are involved in many accidents where there are fatalities.”

Common airside incidents include vehicle turnovers, crush incidents involving workers and pedestrians, aircraft strikes and trap injures caused during coupling/uncoupling.

“We often find that because baggage tugs are much smaller than other equipment on the apron, it can often be difficult to see them and to hear them above the noisy working environment,” she says. “Plus, they offer relatively little protection for the operator.”

With an additional emphasis on turnaround times where the pressure to get baggage and cargo loaded and unloaded is intense, this in turn adds an additional element of risk to equipment operation.

“As with any ground support equipment, training is vital to ensure the safety of operators, equipment and nearby pedestrians on the apron,” says Laura. “The condition of the equipment used, as well as a general pedestrian awareness also help to reduce accidents and incidents involving baggage tugs.”

Identifying defects and faults before they become major problems is good for overall safety and can result in less time lost due to major faults putting equipment out of use, and fewer injuries caused by serious equipment failures.

RTITB Airside often finds that when it comes to baggage tugs, trailer condition is regularly overlooked.

“This can often be anything from missing brake blocks to missing or loose wheel bolts, tyre issues or coupling mechanism faults,” says Laura. “It’s easy to find trailers in poor condition by simply walking around any airfield.”

In a noisy airside environment, it can also be extremely difficult to hear electric tugs above the noise of aircraft engines, vehicles and other operations.

“General pedestrian awareness is essential,” she says. “Simple devices like safety hoops to prevent operatives stepping over couplings, along with training that tackles these sorts of behaviours can go a long way to improving an airside operation’s safety”.

For more information on tailored solutions to help reduce vehicle-to-vehicle incidents and their resulting costs, visit www.rtitb-airside.com or call +44 (0) 1952 520239.