Ground handling safety events can have serious and expensive consequences, involving injuries and even deaths, causing operational delays as well as damage to aircraft and equipment. Ensuring that ground operation activities are performed safely is a priority for all stakeholders on ground.

Three safety performance indicators were developed, based on ground occurrences in the IATA Incident Data eXchange (IDX)

  1. Injuries and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
  2. Aircraft ground damage
  3. Load and loading errors

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

IATA is continuously driving various initiatives aiming to prevent injuries, aircraft damages and promoting a safety culture. Through an industry collaboration such as working closely with GOS (Ground Operations Standards) working group members data from safety events are being analyzed, hazards are identified, and training and procedures are enhanced. As a result of this collaborative effort, the most frequently reported injuries were identified as follows: slips, trips and falls, struck against object, lift/carry, push/pull and fall from heights (not frequent but the most severe).  

To prevent the injuries, an industry prevention program has been put in place to:

  • Enhance the AHM guidelines for Occupational Health and Safety and Human Factor 
  • Map the processes and operational phases where injuries occur
  • Identify  the Ground Service Equipment (GSE) and other equipment involved in injuries 
  • Evaluate the relevance of existing policies, procedures, training in AHM/ IGOM and drive relevant enhancement
  • Identify cause and preventive measures
  • Develop an awareness campaign for industry

Safety Bulletins

Safety bulletins are introduced to promote awareness and prevent most frequent injuries and safety occurrences. 

  1. Fall from Height Injuries (pdf)
  2. Safe Working around Equipment (pdf)

Aircraft Ground Damage

Aircraft ground damage is a significant issue as it can compromise the safety of passengers and airport personnel. It also has a high financial impact on airlines’ budgets, and can seriously disrupt operations. One of the main causes of aircraft ground damage is ground support equipment (GSE) operations. The key GSE types causing ground damage are passenger stairs, cargo-loaders, belt-loaders and passenger boarding bridges (PBB), with belt-loaders causing the most severe damage.

The call for transition to Enhanced GSE  detailed in our recent ground damage study estimates that the annual cost of ground damage could double to nearly $10 billion by 2035 unless preventive action is taken.

IATA works with industry partners to implement strategies and programs to drive adoption of Enhanced GSE. Our Airport Handling Manual (AHM) already advises the design and use of GSE anti-collision systems (Enhanced GSE) as a best practice, with many airlines, and ground handlers seeing the first benefits.  

Call for actions:

  • Owners of GSE should develop business plans to transition their fleets to Enhanced GSE 
  • Ground Handling Service Providers (GHSPs) should be ready to integrate Enhanced GSE into their fleets (training and processes). 
  • Airlines should work with GHSPs to utilize use of enhanced GSE during aircraft handling and implement incentives that increase penetration of enhanced GSE within GHSPs’ fleets.  
  • Manufacturers of aircraft and GSE continue to work together to ensure that that GSE can operate safely and efficiently around aircraft 
  • States should consider policies and strategies to incentivize the use of enhanced GSE 

Load and loading errors

An important aspect of the safety of flight is the aircraft load being correctly distributed. Although many loading systems exist, this is still a very manual process and subject to fundamental flaws as handwriting reading errors and misunderstanding of verbal instructions. The  IATA Incident Data eXchange (IDX) data analysis reveals several issues contributing to loading errors such as load restrains, load reconciliation, over/under carried baggage/cargo, and incorrect weight B/C/M.

IATA works with aviation stakeholders to address these concerns and recommends to: 

  • Review and reinforce tools/processes/training focusing on communication between load control and ramp staff 
  • Reinforce reconciliation process by enabling staff to check and document each of the steps during loading and unloading 
  • Implement a digital solution addressing load reconciliation