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August 30, 2013
OSHA will assume jurisdiction over airline cabin crews

A new policy announced by OSHA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will permit the safety agency to protect employees who work inside airplane cabins. Flight attendants had long complained that they were relatively unprotected from a variety of occupational hazards.

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Labor Secretary Thomas Perez commented, “It is imperative that cabin crewmembers have the same level of safety assurances they provide the public.”

Who’s flying high over the OSHA/FAA safety announcement?

Although the FAA’s aviation safety regulations take precedence, OSHA will now be able to enforce certain rules not covered by the FAA. As a result of the new policy, the following OSHA regulations will be enforced in the cabin:

  • Hazard communication,
  • Bloodborne pathogens,
  • Occupational noise exposure,
  • Injury/illness recordkeeping,
  • Access to employee exposure and medical records, and
  • Whistleblower protection.

Announcement of the change was cheered by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), which has long fought for more oversight. The union says the policy corrects a 4-decades-old exclusion of OSHA in the passenger cabin.

In 1975, the FAA issued a notice claiming exclusive jurisdiction over workplace safety and health for all crewmembers. In 2005, the flight attendants’ union sued the federal government for failing to ensure the health and safety of flight attendants and other airline employees.
They pointed to issues like severe changes in cabin pressure, unwieldy service carts, unruly and sick passengers, threats of terrorism, and emergency evacuations.

The group cited government statistics that found flight attendants become ill and injured four times more often than workers in private industry, and twice as often as those in construction.

The AFA says it will continue to work with OSHA, the FAA, and others in the airline industry to provide flight attendants with information about their rights to safe, healthy workplaces.

The new policy will be effective in late September but enforcement will not begin until 6 months after the effective date.

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