OBJECTIVES: The present study assessed full-shift trunk and upper arm postural exposure amplitudes, frequencies, and durations among Swedish airport baggage handlers and aimed to determine whether exposures differ between workers at the ramp (loading and unloading aircraft) and baggage sorting areas.
METHODS: Trunk and upper arm postures were measured using inclinometers during three full work shifts on each of 27 male baggage handlers working at a large Swedish airport. Sixteen of the baggage handlers worked on the ramp and 11 in the sorting area. Variables summarizing postures and movements were calculated, and mean values and variance components between subjects and within subject (between days) were estimated using restricted maximum likelihood algorithms in a one-way random effect model.
RESULTS: In total, data from 79 full shifts (651h) were collected with a mean recording time of 495min per shift (range 319-632). On average, baggage handlers worked with the right and left arm elevated >60° for 6.4% and 6.3% of the total workday, respectively. The 90th percentile trunk forward projection (FP) was 34.1°, and the 50th percentile trunk movement velocity was 8° s(-1). For most trunk (FP) and upper arm exposure variables, between-subject variability was considerable, suggesting that the flight baggage handlers were not a homogeneously exposed group. A notable between-days variability pointed to the contents of the job differing on different days. Peak exposures (>90°) were higher for ramp workers than for sorting area workers (trunk 0.6% ramp versus 0.3% sorting; right arm 1.3% ramp versus 0.7% sorting).
CONCLUSIONS: Trunk and upper arm postures and movements among flight baggage handlers measured by inclinometry were similar to those found in other jobs comprising manual material handling, known to be associated with increased risks for musculoskeletal disorders. The results showed that full-shift trunk (FP) and, to some extent, peak arm exposures were higher for ramp workers compared with sorting workers.