The manual handling duties involved in moving passenger baggage around an airport can often result in airport baggage handler repetitive strain injury claims for compensation.
Due to the confined spaces and heavy loads that airport baggage handlers have to manage, and the quick turnaround times that they have to fulfill as part of their work targets, they are prime candidates to suffer from repetitive strain injuries.
Airport Baggage Handler Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) refers to a range of musculoskeletal disorders that impact the soft tissues of the upper limbs and neck. The result is, typically, that the sufferer carries out repetitive movements that cause the inflammation of the tendons in these areas of the body. Repetitive strain injuries include bursitis, writer’s cramp, tennis elbow and tendonitis.
In the past, repetitive strain injuries have been thought of as arising from daily office tasks like typing and data entry, working in manufacturing or any job where a regular and large amount of carrying above shoulder height is necessary.
Repetitive strain injuries are grouped in the industrial disease category is they are contracted in the work environment, due to the task design or as a result of the equipment available to complete the task. As per the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (2007), employers have a legal obligation to conduct regular risk assessments within the workplace to review the capability of staff to operate without risk of injury.
Causes of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
In the vast majority of cases, repetitive strain injuries arise due to the overuse of muscles, tendons and ligaments on an ongoing basis and may be aggravated by a number of factors.
- Lack of regular breaks
- Using vibrating machinery
- Working in a cold environment
- Performing the repetitive tasks
- Maintaining a poor posture
Depression is scientifically proven to be a side effect of performing repetitive tasks in the workplace. Staff who experience depression or anxiety may also develop symptoms of repetitive strain injuries.
Repetitive Strain Injury and Airport Baggage Handlers
Airport Baggage Handlers are in particular danger when it comes to developing repetitive strain injuries as a result of the manual handling duties they are expected to perform with a strict deadline to ensure a quick turnaround time for the airplance.
The following tasks are likely to contribute to the possible development of repetitive strain injuries:
- Constant bending, lifting and reaching
- Manual loading and unloading of gate-checked baggage
- Repeated testing, pushing, and pulling through the use of handheld scanners
- Lifting for long periods of time in confined areas like baggage holds
- Reaching awkwardly due to the use of conveyor belts
Health and Safety Requirements for Baggage Handlers
All staff should be given the correct health and safety training for the duties that they are expected to complete. This should direct them how to carry these out while avoiding all possible danger and injury. If you are required to lift baggage overhead then the training must detail how to complete this.
The company you are employed by must ensure that the working area is adequate. In other words, you should not be expected to work in a confined or restricted area for a long period of time that could result in suffering or injury.
Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries do not present themselves suddenly. They develop over a long period of time.
Typically, those with a higher risk factor of experiencing repetitive strain injuries include older people, those who have an existing health condition and those who are not physically fit. Research has shown that females are more susceptible to repetitive strain injuries than men, and the severity of repetitive strain injuries may depend on an individual’s emotions, the activity some has to carry out and the current weather conditions.
- Symptoms commonly associated with repetitive strain injuries would be:
- Underlying aching in the arm, shoulder or neck before the ache which eventually results in pain.
- Numbness in the hands and loss of feeling in the fingers
- A tingling sensation similar to constant pins and needles
- Poor sleep patterns and general fatigue
Diagnosing Repetitive Strain Injuries
If you think you are suffering from RSI due to your working conditions, or for any reason, you should seek the opinion of a doctor at the earliest possible opportunity in order to have this addressed.
A doctor will guide you on what action you should take to ease the pain and stop it happening again. Your doctor will diagnose your repetitive strain injuries as one of two types:
Type 1: Repetitive strain injuries that a doctor can diagnose as a recognised medical condition with symptoms. This includes bursitis, writer’s cramp (dystonia), tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and tendonitis. They will diagnose this using some tests to quantify the tightness of your muscles, recording any swelling or inflammation of the tendons that takes place and measuring the strength of your grip. In some cases you may also be referred to a rheumatology consultant for a more expert opinion.
Type 2: Repetitive strain injuries are when a doctor is unable to diagnose a medical condition from the symptoms that are presenting. Your symptoms may not fit into a predefined condition and no symptoms are physically visible. These types of non-measurable repetitive strain injuries are referred to as “diffuse RSI” or “non-specific pain syndromes” and cover any condition for which there is no tangible reason or which is attributed to psychological factors.
Treating Repetitive Strain Injuries
In most cases your doctor will recommend one of a number of treatments to deal with the specific strain of repetitive injury that you are experiencing. This could include anti-inflammatory pain killing medication, cortisone injections or simple physical exercise. You will be advised to discontinue the tasks which are resulting in the symptoms and to find a different way to complete your work in order to lessen the strain on the damaged tissues.
You may also be referred to a physiotherapist who will be able to give you advice on posture and how to strengthen or relax the muscles that are under stress or, alternatively, referred to a chiropractor or osteopath, depending on your symptoms. In some cases you may be advised to undergo a surgical procedure to address the issue. However, this will depend on the sort of repetitive strain injuries you are diagnosed with.
Io order to prevent you suffering from this condition again your Doctor will advise you to change your current work practices. One recommendation that your doctor will definitely make is to change your work practices. This could involve your employer making improvements to your work environment.
Compensation Claims for Costochondritis
You can claim compensation for repetitive strain injuries against your employer if he has failed to provide a safe working environment.
To give you the best chance of being successful in your airport baggage handler repetitive injury claim you should seek the assistance of an experienced solicitor. Doing so may prevent your claim leading to an awkward workplace confrontation with your employer.