Swissport was recognised with the 2019 Innovator Award 2019 at the IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) in Madrid on Wednesday (29 May)for its role in developing the ‘LiftSuit’.
The LiftSuit, a wearable exoskeleton, can help to prevent musculoskeletal injuries amongst baggage handlers.
Florian Eggenschwiler (pictured above), head of innovation at Swissport International received the award. The ground handling company beat off competition from International Boarding Solutions and Atollogy to win. IGHC delegates voted for Swissport out of the three.
Airport baggage handlers lift an average of five tons of baggage per day, often performing lifts in awkward positions inside an aircraft’s underfloor baggage compartment.
With its commitment to set the industry benchmark in workers’ health and safety, Swissport said it continuously explores new ways to further improve the work conditions of its some 30,000 ramp and baggage handlers worldwide.
With a group of ground handling staff and Auxivo, a specialist in the development of wearable exoskeletons, Swissport has been developing the LiftSuit over the past year. Several prototypes have been tested in realistic conditions at multiple Swissport locations to maximize the effectiveness and comfort of the LiftSuit.
Elastic elements allow the LiftSuit to store energy when a worker bends down. The energy is then released to support the workers when they pull the load back up. Laboratory results have shown that different muscle groups of a worker will experience a reduced activity of 10-30 per cent, while wearing the LiftSuit. This leads to decreased muscle fatigue, which again decreases the risk of injury.
Swissport International vice president of global quality, health and safety, Alexandre Bolay said: “Injuries that occur during manual handling of heavy objects are a major concern for us. We are very pleased with the results of the new gear and the IATA recognition of Swissport as an industry leader in employee well-being. The LiftSuit is a fairly simple, yet effective way to support and protect our workers.”
The initiative is part of a global innovation program which was launched two years ago. Beyond the LiftSuit, Swissport is exploring other ways to improve manual handling safety.
A team in Melbourne, Australia, is currently testing a wearable device, which measures body movements and quantifies the risk based on measuring displacement frequencies and force. The device is fitted with an alarm which can be set to immediately alert the wearer once they make a high-risk movement.