eSafetyFirst - International Air Freight Safety


International air freight may be a high cost-to-weight form of shipment, but it is also the fastest way to transport goods from one country to another. Since speed is essential for most air freight companies, employees are put under constant pressure to work quickly and are often required to do so during unusual hours. In the absence of adequate safety training, these circumstances can lead to an increased risk of accidents.

Potential Hazards

The most common risks associated with international air freight include:

  • Exposure to Dangerous Materials.

    Air freight employees who are required to load, unload, or transport dangerous goods are placed at a high risk and must be rigorously trained prior to being assigned such a hazardous task. Dangerous goods include explosives, flammable solids and liquids, oxidizers, gases, toxic or infectious substances, corrosives, and radioactive materials. Cargo pertaining to either of these categories must be packed, handled, and transported with the utmost care. If specific safety measures are not implemented, the resulting incidents can be fatal for pilots and have disastrous consequences for communities where the aircraft eventually lands.
  • Ergonomic Hazards.

    Pilots are not often required to load and/or unload cargo, but other employees in air freight must do so on a regular basis. As they lift, pull, push, or drag very heavy materials, workers put considerable strains on their bodies. Especially if proper techniques are not used in the process, the likelihood of lower back, muscle, ligament, or nerve injury is increased. What’s worse, if an employee becomes injured while lifting or carrying a heavy or hazardous package, they are likely to drop the latter and further injure both themselves and any nearby co-workers.
  • Poorly Handled Vehicles.

    Forklifts are an indispensable tool for air freight employees who load and unload aircraft, but when handled poorly, these vehicles pose a serious risk to both the operator and nearby workers. To ensure that no incidents occur, operators must learn how to properly load a forklift and how to avoid overloading. Goods must be secured prior to being lifted and transported and a safe transportation perimeter must be established to ensure that other employees are not hurt in case of an accident.
  • Explosions and Fires.

    Aircraft freight holds are commonly loaded with efficiency, rather than safety, in mind. Given that cargo is tightly packed together, the risk and severity of fires is increased, especially when flammable goods are being transported. While dangerous goods that fall in the category of explosives or flammable solids and liquids must be packaged in a special manner, thus ensuring their isolation from other materials, some products – such as lithium batteries found in modern appliances – are not subjected to the same rule.

Incident Prevention

Company policies for international air freight play an instrumental role in incident prevention. For example, many employees might not fully grasp the nature and gravity of certain risks associated with their line of work. Without suitable knowledge regarding hazards and preventative measures, workers are more likely to make mistakes, cause accidents, and suffer injuries. Companies that ensure sufficient safety training for all employees provide the latter with the tools they need to decrease the number of incidents, as well as minimize their impact.

Alternatively, when employees are constantly pressed for time, they are more likely to cut corners and forgo important safety measures in an attempt to become more efficient. Given that air freight is an overall dangerous sector, such an attitude can lead to serious injuries and even death.

Aside from training employees to detect, assess, and prevent incidents, air freight companies must emphasize safety through policies that focus on qualitative, rather than quantitative results. Only when workers feel that they have enough time to perform safety checks in addition to carrying out routine tasks can they successfully prevent incidents, rather than cause them.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

The international air freight sector can be extremely dangerous when employees are not suitably trained. If you work in this industry, the first step you should take to ensure your safety is to undergo safety training and obtain the necessary qualifications. In Canada, your employer is legally required to provide access to safety courses for you and your colleagues.

To consult a comprehensive list of safety courses best suited for international air freight, please visit our Logistics (Warehousing and Shipping) industry page.

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