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Air cargo baggage handling company fined following two incidents at Luton Airport

Airport baggage and cargo handler Swissport GB Limited has been fined following two accidents at Luton Airport in 2015.

In the first incident a ramp agent and team leader for Swissport GB Limited was working at Luton Airport. Using a flatbed lorry and a belt loader, the team leader and his team unloaded the bags from an aircraft onto the lorry. Whilst standing on the back of the flatbed, the worker directed a colleague to take the bags to the airport inbound terminal. The colleague climbed into the cab of the flatbed, checked his mirrors and drove away not realising the team leader was still on the vehicle when it drove away.

The worker fell off the moving vehicle onto the ground sustaining bruising and damage to his spine. He was off work for eight weeks.

In the second incident a second team leader employed by Swissport was working at Luton Airport on a night shift loading cargo onto an aircraft using a high-loader. A high-loader has a platform that raises cargo from the ground up to the aircraft hold and extends to approximately 9 metres. The high-loader had been partially raised when the team leader began climbing the access ladder. As he was climbing the ladder, one of his feet slipped and he fell backwards to the ground suffering an impact injury to his right foot.

Luton Crown Court heard that Swissport GB Limited had not adequately assessed the risk or implemented a safe system of work to address the risk of employees falling from the rear of flatbed vehicles being driven away with workers still on the flatbed. The court heard that Swissport had failed to ensure that work at height on high-loaders was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

Swissport GB Ltd of Swissport House Hampton Court, Manor Park, Runcorn, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work1974 and Regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and has been fined £502,000 and ordered to pay costs of £44,444.