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The spring travel spike: strategies for ensuring TSA workers’ health and safety 

March 25, 2024
  • By: Rob Edelman, Senior Vice President, strategy and innovation, Sedgwick Government Solutions

Springtime marks the first busy travel season of the year, with several weeks in the month of March encompassing the spring break season for many families and young people. This year’s spring break season is slated to be even busier than recent years: so far in 2024, travel volumes are trending at nearly 6% year over year, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials

With the uptick in travelers, TSA employees should plan ahead to prioritize their physical and mental health and safety. While there will always be unknowns in an important – and at times risky – public safety role, employees that take the time to consider what they can prepare for and what they can prevent will be on a better path to success.

Preparation is key

As in the private sector, busy seasons for the TSA are cyclical. Therefore, workers can anticipate stress and prepare for an oncoming busy season. Work smart and consider the following best practices:

Prepare for a change in types of travelers. The spring travel season is stressful not just because of the high volume of travelers, but the change in the traveler population. Spring break travelers more often include young families traveling with small children, and young adults traveling alone or with their peers. Both groups are often not as familiar with TSA procedures as seasoned business travelers. 

From how to pack, to how to act through security checkpoint steps, springtime travelers may be going through the process for the first time or not know how to move efficiently through security lanes. Being prepared for the extra time and patience in assisting and educating these travelers is an important step to take. 

Review procedures. A shift in the traveling population during spring break can introduce distractions or lead to conflicts with travelers over security procedures. TSA employees should rely on their training to ensure that they remain safe. If additional training opportunities are offered, it’s a good time to take advantage of those opportunities and brush up on skills.

Know who to call. If something unexpected happens, or if a TSA employee needs additional support during or outside of a shift, knowing who to call resolves issues faster. Employees should think through different scenarios where help may be needed and have a list handy with key contacts for each scenario. Familiarize yourself with available resources and support services offered by TSA, such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and counseling services. Know how to access these resources if needed and encourage others to do the same. Whether it’s a team member, a manager, a mental health resource group, or an insurance claims expert, help is available.

Prevention measures 

Even with good preparation, not all health and safety scenarios can be predicted. Preventative measures for both physical and mental wellness should be considered year-round but are especially important during stressful times. 

Preventing physical illness. TSA employees are among the front-line workers who regularly encounter potential disease carriers – the risk of illness increases in the spring, when colds and allergens are common among the population.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, workers should be familiar with preventative health safety measures like social distancing, handwashing, and the use of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves. Though many of these guidelines are no longer enforced or required, employees should continue following those best practices as necessary during the spring travel season as the volume of travelers increases.

Following healthy habits like regular exercise, balanced meals and adequate sleep also play a key role in immune support, which is necessary during times of stress. 

Preventing mental illness and burnout. Mental health has become a greater focus in health and safety discussions. The Biden Administration has recently committed more government resources in helping Americans understand, access and improve mental health conditions. 

TSA employees can’t overlook mental health during the busiest times: after all, mental health is health. Employees should take breaks when needed and check-in with oneself or with coworkers to monitor emotional well-being. Talking with a trusted person to maintain perspective during stress can help navigate frustration over things that are hard to control. Pay attention to warning signs of stress or burnout, such as irritability, fatigue, or changes in sleep patterns, and take proactive steps to address them with a colleague, support person or care provider.

TSA workers are essential front-line workers who serve a valuable role in keeping people safe while they travel. New airport security screening methods currently in development may make the airport security process more contactless or more expedient, but TSA workers will always be there to support, assist and educate. During the busiest times, preparation and prevention are steps that TSA workers must consider staying safe and healthy.