Airline Workers Closer To Safety, Health Protections

The first results of an FAA-OSHA study recommends that OSHA's standards, such as recordkeeping and hazard communication, apply to aircraft.

One of the more surprising numbers in the many pages of data in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report of occupational illness and injury is the injury rate for employees of scheduled airlines.

In 1999, those workers experienced more than 105,000 lost workday injuries, giving them one of the highest lost workday injury rates of any group of private-sector workers.

Flight crews have been excluded from coverage by OSHA regulations, and their safety and health conditions have been the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Last August, airline unions suceeded in pressuring the FAA to sign an agreement with OSHA to study the effect of enforcing OSHA regulations on board aircraft.

On the same day that BLS published the data showing the lost workday injury rate for airline workers, the first results of the FAA-OSHA study were announced, recommending that OSHA''s standards on medical records, recordkeeping, anti-discrimination, hazard communication and sanitation should apply to aircraft without amendment.

The bloodborne pathogen and noise standards can also be applied in a modified form.

If the FAA-OSHA recommendations are fulfilled, flight attendants will, for the first time, get protections that most workers have: employer-paid hepatitis B vaccinations, hearing test and formal sanitation standards.

Employers will also be required to share injury and illness records as well as medical and exposure records with OSHA and the flight attendants.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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