Airport baggage firm fined £500k after two Luton workers injured

Court News
Court News

A cargo handling firm was fined more than £500,000 last week after two of its employees were injured at Luton Airport.

Swissport GB Limited is one of the largest aviation service firms in the world, with a reported turnover of £233m in 2016.

On June 23, 2015, a ramp agent was injured at Luton Airport after falling from a flatbed lorry that was overloaded with baggage.

And on September 9, 2015, a second team leader was loading cargo onto a plane using a high-loader, when he slipped from the ladder and fell to the ground, injuring his foot.

At Luton Crown Court on Monday, January 26, it was heard that Swissport GB Ltd had not adequately risk-assessed or implemented safe systems for employees at risk of falling from flatbed vehicles, and that the company also failed to ensure work at heights on high-loaders was properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

Swissport GB Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work 1974 and Regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was fined £502,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £44,444.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Emma Page said: “Employers should be aware of their legal duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and those not in their employment. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

During the first incident on June 23, 2015, the court was told that the employee was standing on the back of the flatbed lorry. A colleague climbed into the cab of the flatbed and checked his mirrors but could not see his colleague on the back of the overloaded vehicle. He then drove away and the worker fell from the moving vehicle onto the ground, sustaining bruising and damage to his spine. He was off work for eight weeks.

During the second incident on September 9, 2015, an employee was loading cargo on to an aircraft using a high-loader – a platform that raises cargo from the ground up to the aircraft hold and extends to around nine 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.

A Swissport spokesman said: “We accept the Court’s ruling over two incidents which occurred at Luton airport in 2015. Whilst neither of the employees involved were seriously injured, we have taken this matter extremely seriously and have implemented all of the recommendations to address this issue.

“We note that the size of the fine is not a reflection of the extent of the injuries but is relative to the size of our turnover. We have cooperated fully with the investigation and we appreciate the guidance provided by the HSE. As a business we will continue to prioritise health and safety.”