New technologies, such as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI), have brought significant changes to the workplace, and the impact of these changes on workers’ health and safety remains largely unknown. This is especially true in the aviation industry, where ground personnel face a significant technological shift. The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the situation, leading to a shortage of personnel and putting the focus on creating attractive and healthy workplaces to retain staff. However, implementing new technologies can also bring new and unforeseen problems where using a hand scanner causes pain and discomfort for airport personnel.

A person holding a digital device for scanning luggage
A person holding a digital device for scanning luggage

To address these knowledge gaps, a research project has been initiated to investigate the impact of new technologies on the work environment of ground personnel in the aviation industry. The project aims to increase knowledge of how new technologies have affected and will continue to affect the work environment of baggage handlers, airport technicians, and refueling staff. These groups have been chosen because of the large research gap in their areas and the shortage of personnel, which increases the importance of their health and safety.

The project will work closely with the aviation industry and the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union (TYA), owned by labor market parties, the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, and Transport Companies. Both organizations have expressed a need for this knowledge to prevent workplace health and safety problems. The project will also examine how research results on the work environment can be implemented and utilized effectively.

The project has two main objectives. The first is to investigate the level of implementation of new technologies that affect baggage handlers, airport technicians, and refueling staff across Sweden’s 38 airports and the plans for digitization moving forward. This will provide a baseline for the second objective, examining how new technologies have affected the work environment and increased the risk of workplace injuries.

The project addresses a critical knowledge gap in the area of new technologies and work environment and is well-aligned with the goals of the AFA (Arbetsmiljöfonden) within this area. The project will provide increased knowledge of the effects of new technologies on airport personnel’s work environment and support labor market parties in working preventatively regarding future workplace health and safety risks.