Thousands of U.S. flight attendants may soon enjoy better workplace safety protections, thanks to a long-awaited proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to open airline cabins to the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
For decades, flight attendants and other crew members who earn their living in the sky have not enjoyed the comprehensive OSHA regulatory standards and protections as most other U.S. workers, being bound instead to the Transportation Department’s FAA regulations.
“Safety is our highest priority and that certainly extends to those who work in the transportation industry,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Under this proposal, flight attendants would, for the first time, be able to report workplace injury and illness complaints to OSHA for response and investigation.”
“The policy with the FAA will not only enhance the health and safety of flight attendants by connecting them directly with OSHA but will, by extension, improve the flying experience of millions of airline passengers,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.
OSHA protections for flight attendants could include regulations governing exposure to noise and blood-borne pathogens, and access to information about hazardous chemicals, according to EHS Today. The FAA is currently collaborating with OSHA to identify areas where OSHA protections would apply, and to ensure OSHA doesn’t implement changes that could jeopardize flight safety.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires the FAA to outline all the circumstances in which OSHA regulations would apply to Flight crew members while they are working aboard the aircraft.
“We made history today,” the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA said in a statement. “Four decades after OSHA was created and safety and health protections were extended to the workplace of most Americans, we have finally achieved OSHA protections for Flight Attendants in the aircraft cabin.” The Association of Flight Attendants – CWA represents approximately 60,000 flight attendants working in 21 airlines.