Swissport Chipre Ltd
Cyprus: Wearable exoskeletons to better manage manual handling at airports | Case studies | Tools and publications (healthy-workplaces.eu)
What does it mean to be among the 10 organizations awarded by the European Agency for excellence in best practices as a healthy workplace?
Being recognized as one of the top 10 organizations for best workplace practices is undoubtedly a significant accomplishment for us. At Swissport we do not compromise when it comes to health and safety in workplace, and this award genuinely acknowledges that. This award enhanced our commitment to continue to invest in innovative ideas that will have a positive impact on the wellbeing of our employees.
What did the Work-Ergonomics Health program focus on? How was the experience with the wearable exoskeleton and what were the results?
The Work-Ergonomics Health program focused on manual handling activities and the prevention of potential risks arising from these activities. The nature of work in the Airport Ramp Handling Department is such, that requires manual loading/unloading of luggage, cargo and mail on aircrafts served by Swissport Cyprus. The frequent and repetitive activity of manual handling but also in many cases the adoption of distorted postures by colleagues, can possibly result to musculoskeletal strain. Therefore, the company’s focus was on how to minimize this risk.
The whole process and experience until we launch the innovative product “Liftsuit” was truly interesting. Management and employees collaborated to achieve the most improved version of the wearable exoskeleton and get a desirable product based on employee
’s’ needs. The employees who tested the exoskeleton embraced the idea of using a supportive equipment to protect themselves. The Liftsuit has proved to be useful in various manual handling positions with noticeable myoskeletical relief. In addition, the project enabled our colleagues to have an immediate improved awareness of the importance of health in our workplace.
Do you consider that innovation can be of great benefit in reducing MSDs?
In a rapidly changing international environment, the ability of a company to evolve and invest in innovation is perhaps the greatest competitive advantage. We are privileged to live in an era where technology has advanced and simplified our lives more than ever before. We are positive that the solution for MSDs will be discovered by thinking outside the box and of course by that we mean introducing new innovative ways to perform our jobs in a healthier, safer, and easier manner.
What feedback have you gotten from employees after the implementation of the wearable exoskeleton?
The wearable exoskeletons have not yet been implemented on a larger scale. Testing is a long-term process, especially when testing a product related to Health & Safety. The feedback however received from colleagues who are currently testing the exoskeleton is very satisfactory and encouraging. Specifically, one of our colleagues mentioned during the testing interview, “I believe that if I have had the Liftsuit earlier, I would not have harmed my back.”.
To what degree do you consider that this project has helped to reduce sick leaves and boost productivity?
The effectiveness of LiftSuit is related to improving the wellbeing of our employees both at work but also at a personal level. The results of an innovation are not always immediate, especially for those employees already facing muscoskeletal disorders. However, according to our employees’ feedback the suit has proved to be particularly useful inside the aircraft hold and when handling heavy cargo. In addition, they have reported that they are feeling more relaxed wearing the suit than usual when loading/offloading luggage on the aircraft, therefore we are positive, and we do expect, to see a reduction in sick leaves in the next years. From productivity’s side of view, the project has contributed to the feeling of employee satisfaction through increasing the perception that the employer understands and takes action to accommodate their needs and makes efforts to promote a healthier working environment by investing in innovative products, with the active participation of staff throughout the process and to their own advantage.
What new projects are you working on to promote the prevention and health of employees?
We are hoping that in 2023 we will participate in another innovative project in cooperation with the Research Innovation Foundation of Cyprus, once again related to manual handling activities. One of the projects is about an innovative product that measures real-time force/weight distribution of the workers. This product aims to assist both workers and Occupational Health and Safety managers/supervisors to early detect and prevent harmful activities, such as manual weight handling, carrying, and lifting, by providing real-time alerts and notifications with movement pattern details. In addition to that we are open to innovative products that the market currently offers, for example, mechanisms such as conveyor belts for efficient and fast loading/unloading.