Ground handling staff 'must have passion for the industry'

More needs to be done to develop a culture of safety among ground handling staff, especially those responsible for loading cargo.

Speaking at the IGHC, Bob Rogers, Vice President of ULD Care, said that most safety infringements go unreported prior to the aircraft taking off.

In fact, only 20% of safety infringements involving cargo ground handling are found before the aircraft takes off—meaning many infringements are only discovered on arrival.

‘Infringements’ refer to a multitude of situations, including a failure to secure nets to keep cargo in place and incorrect loading positions and weights.

Of 4,069 damage reports, 55% relate to cargo, baggage loading operations, and the associated equipment

The latter are especially important, because they can result in bulk cargo and containerized cargo moving around the cargo hold inflight.

The problem, Rogers informed, is that there are significant barriers to incident reporting. “It is just not in the culture to report it,” he said. “It is more a culture of ‘let’s just get the aircraft away on time and turn a blind eye.’”

Rogers highlighted IATA’s ground damage database (GDDB), where airlines and ground handlers voluntarily report accidents involving damage to aircraft on the ground.

Of the 4,069 damage reports listed in the GDDB, 55% relate to cargo, baggage loading operations, and the associated equipment.

Do we have someone on the ramp to lead and motivate people?

Mie Rajcic, Operational Business Development Manager at Copenhagen Airports, said that companies like to think about strategies to grow and drive their businesses forward, but will fail to achieve their goals if the company culture is lacking.

“We need to have people on the ramp who have passion,” she said.

“People working on the ramp need to understand the importance of safety. I know we are putting a lot of pressure on people.

"But do they understand why it is important to check the aircraft and that everything is in order? We have checklists but do we have someone on the ramp to lead and motivate people?”

Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security said he knew first-hand, from working in the industry, the importance of having people with leadership skills.

Their colleagues respected these leaders to do a good job and were motivated to do a good job.

Careen also pointed out that IATA has initiatives underway to help the ground handling industry, such as the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations.

But the industry must fully embrace these initiatives to reap the full benefits.