DOT Inspector General: FAA Ignored Flight Attendant Safety for 26Years

Oct. 5, 2001
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has receives a scolding from the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the Inspector General about flight attendant safety and health onboard aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received a scolding from the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the Inspector General about flight attendant safety and health onboard aircraft, much to the delight of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).

The Inspector General released a report Sept. 26 that took issue with the FAA for its failure to issue industry standards to address employee health and safety issues on board aircraft. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have jurisdiction over the health and safety of employees on board aircraft. That responsibility belongs to the FAA. The AFA has complained for years that the occupational health and safety issues of flight attendants have not been addressed by the agency.

"Real safety and health protections for flight attendants are long overdue," points out Patricia Friend, International President of the AFA, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. "We have waited for 26 years for federal safety protections like other workers have. Any further delay would be needlessly jeopardizing the health and safety of thousands of flight attendants each day."

The Inspector General concluded that the FAA has failed to implement the necessary safety and health standards to protect flight attendants from workplace hazards. The report recommends that the FAA, in conjunction with OSHA, establish milestones for the implementation of a December 2000 report concluding that OSHA''s standards on medical records, recordkeeping, anti-discrimination, hazard communication and sanitation should apply to aircraft. The bloodborne pathogen and noise standards can also be applied in modified form, according to the report.

The report also states that if the recommendations are not implemented, the Inspector General may revoke the FAA''s exclusive authority to provide occupational health and safety standards and turn it over to OSHA.

Flight attendants lost OSHA protections in 1975 when the FAA claimed jurisdiction over the health and safety of pilots and flight attendants. According the the AFA, there is an extremely high rate of injury to flight attendants, for which the group blames the FAA. An AFA review of injury and illness logs at 13 U.S. airlines showed that out of 31,422 flight attendants, 10 percent reported an injury that required follow-up medical attention or caused them to lose time from work in 1998. That''s more than triple the national average of 3.1 percent.

In August of 2000, the FAA and OSHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a procedure for coordinating and supporting enforcement of the OSHA Act with respect to the working conditions of employees on aircraft in operation (other than the flight crew).

by Sandy Smith

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