Onboard SCCMs consistently tell me to stow bags that are heavy – I have told the SCCMs I am not lifting the bags and that they should be offloaded if the pax can’t lift them. However, when a pax boards as a PRM the SCCMs typically tell me it’s not a choice as the pax is disabled. I have sought legal advice regarding our manuals and the legislation followed, stowing bags should be done by the airport managing body/its contracted staff.
Recently I pushed a very heavy bag and I felt a shooting pain in my neck, I winced as I pushed the bag. During my break I cried, I hid as to not be seen by the other crew. I was in pain and so hurt and disappointed with my colleagues. I am still experiencing pain in my head and neck. I cannot report sick for due to being on a temporary contract, I have a mortgage and family to think about and cannot risk not being employed further.
A recent safety notice was issued providing crew a refresher on manual handling techniques, including the loading of bags into the overhead lockers. The techniques, if followed correctly, ensure that injuries are avoided when carrying out manual handling tasks. The safety notice’s accompanying video reaffirms the advice to ask for assistance from ground personnel and/or other crew members if a bag is too heavy. It should be reported internally and will be followed up on if a crew member experiences pressure from their SCCM. If the pertinent information is received, further action can also be taken with the Airport teams.
Whilst an operator is required to ensure that only those bags that can be adequately and securely stowed are taken into the aircraft cabin, such baggage is not usually individually weighed. Lifting of passenger baggage by cabin crew is a matter of health and safety and if a crew member considers a bag is too heavy for then to lift without potential for injury, they should not do so.
Such events should be reported through the company reporting system in order to enable the identification of trends relating to oversize or over-weight passenger baggage.
All cabin crew should receive manual handling training. Good practice prior to assisting lifting a bag is to test the load of the bag first; crew must not lift bags that are beyond their lifting capabilities and should ask for assistance if it is required. For PRMs the special assistance staff should be available to assist with putting the passengers’ bags into the overhead lockers.
CAP757 states: ‘As far as possible, cabin crew should provide minimal assistance with passenger carry-on baggage and encourage passengers to stow their own baggage. Where possible, cabin crew should avoid lifting carry-on baggage into overhead lockers but, if no other solution can be found, the crew member should assess the baggage and, if necessary, request assistance before lifting it’.
Any bags that are beyond your lifting capabilities and/or your operator’s weight restrictions should be off loaded and put into the aircraft hold. If you are offloading passenger bags, then please ensure that you ask the customer if they have everything they need for the flight prior to taking the bag; including consideration for dangerous good restrictions, and passport and medication are must haves.
The safety implications of operating as crew when unfit to do so are clear. Safety may be being compromised by crews feeling pressured to operate when they are unfit to do so, whether it is perceived pressure from your operator or personal pressures. Although the reporter’s injuries occurred after they had commenced their duty, an assessment still needs to be made as to whether you are fit to continue to operate because flying when you are unfit may lead to the exacerbation of your symptoms and/or injury.