August 7, 2000, WASHINGTON, DC -- The airplane cabin will be getting safer for flight attendants and passengers because of an agreement today between the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health administration extending OSHA protections to flight attendants. The new ruling ends a blistering nationwide campaign by members of the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, who have fought to extend OSHA protection to in-cabin airline employees. The extremely high rate of injury to flight attendants translates into a more dangerous airplane cabin environment for everyone, including passengers. An AFA review of injury and illness logs at 11 U.S. airlines showed that out of 31,024 flight attendants, 10% reported an injury that required follow-up medical attention or caused them to lose time from work in 1998.
That's more than double the injury rate to miners (4.9%), and more than triple the national average of 3.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With those startling statistics at hand, the FAA and OSHA announced today they have reached a Memorandum of Understanding, which establishes "a procedure for coordinating and supporting enforcement of the OSHA Act with respect to the working conditions of employees on the aircraft in operation (other than flight crew)." "We've fought hard to win occupational safety and health protections," said Patricia Friend, AFA's International President. "Quite frankly, it's about time we were extended the protections most American workers have enjoyed for decades."
In February 2000, AFA raised the intensity of their fight to win occupational safety and health protections with a campaign called OSHA NOW!, which included conducting high profile media events, with flight attendant leafleting and rallying at airports and in front of the FAA, getting petitions signed, forming a coalition with sympathetic groups, and calling on politicians to support the fight. "We will be closely monitoring this agreement between the FAA and OSHA to ensure that actions will follow these words of 'understanding'," said Friend. "If we don't see a significant improvement in the occupational safety of flight attendants in the coming year, we will start this fight all over again."
In 1975, the FAA claimed jurisdiction over the health and safety of flight attendants and pilots. And while the pilots are medically certified and their health is closely monitored by the FAA's Office of Aviation Medicine, occupational safety and health hazards faced by the overwhelmingly female flight attendant profession have essentially been ignored for the past 25 years. "Flight attendants everywhere would like to thank Vice President Al Gore, Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and Department of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman for their efforts to make this extension of safety and health protections a reality," said Friend.
Flight attendants suffer painful, often debilitating injuries and illnesses related to:
poorly designed and maintained food and beverage carts that can weigh up to 500 pounds,
cuts and burns from poorly designed galley equipment and oven racks,
slipping on galley floors and icy walkways,
handling or being struck by excessive, over-sized and overweight carry-on baggage,
exposure to potentially infected blood when providing in-flight emergency medical treatment including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, without the proper equipment or medical follow-up.
Recently the Inspectors' General Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation initiated an investigation of the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to properly protect flight attendants on the job and 81 U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives have called upon the Secretaries of Transportation and Labor to provide the proper protection.
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