USA Today reports that TSA screening operations are modern-day salt mines, with an injury rate of 29% last year, lower than prior years but still more than six times higher than the federal employee average:
The injury rate for screeners far exceeds the 4.5% injury rate for the rest of the federal workforce. The private sector rate was 4.8% in 2004, the most recent year for which Labor Department figures are available. These figures include all job injuries, even if an employee didn’t miss work. In general, about a third of workplace injuries result in lost job time.
Screeners are five times more likely to get injured than coal miners and seven times more likely than textile millworkers, according to TSA and Labor Department data.
“It is a physically demanding job,” TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter says. Screeners “repeatedly lift and move heavy bags.”
And the cost to taxpayers of these injuries:
The injuries cost taxpayers $52 million in fiscal 2005 to cover wages and medical payments for injured screeners, the TSA says.
The article notes that TSA is looking to deal with this problem by finding new ways to minimize screeners’ need to lift bags repetitively on and off the luggage screening machines and over long distances. Stricter physical fitness standards for the screeners who are staffed at the checked baggage EDS machines might also make sense, as this Federal Times article from last October suggests.
In the meantime, the lesson for everyone: be kind and pack lighter!