Congress Calls Lack of OSHA Coverage For Flight Attendants

Eighty-one members of Congress joined the Association of\r\nFlight Attendants, AFL-CIO on Thursday in the fight to motivate\r\nthe Federal Aviation Administration to provide OSHA protections\r\nto flight attendants.

Eighty-one members of Congress joined the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), AFL-CIO on Thursday in the fight to motivate the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide OSHA protections to flight attendants.

A bipartisan group of 68 U.S. representatives and 13 U.S. senators sent letters to Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. Those letters charged that "the FAA has failed to provide safety and health protections for flight attendants for 25 years, despite repeated requests for protection from flight attendants."

"We have asked both the departments of Transportation and Labor to help, and they both continue to pass the buck," said Patricia Friend, AFA international president. "Each day they do, 33 more flight attendants are injured. That''s unconscionable."

FAA has had exclusive jurisdiction over occupational safety and health in airplanes since 1975.

A review of injury and illness logs at 11 U.S. airlines showed that out of 31,024 flight attendants, 10 percent reported an injury that required medical attention beyond first aid or caused them time away from work in 1998, according to AFA.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, in 1998, the industrywide rate of recordable injuries and illnesses was higher for workers in the aviation industry (14.5 percent) than in construction (8.8 percent).

According to AFL-CIO, OSHA protection has significantly reduced injuries in industries where OSHA standards and enforcement activities have been focused.

AFA noted that flight attendants are exposed to a variety of hazards including slippery galley floors, poor air quality and heavy carry-on baggage.

Recently, DOT''s Office of the Inspector General said it would launch an investigation into FAA''s failure to enact safety and health rules to protect flight attendant on the job.

AFA is the world''s largest flight attendant union with 47,000 members at 26 airlines.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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