Occupational Health and Safety Concerns

(The discussion on occupational health and safety concerns will not include information concerning the actual operation of the aircraft since the author has absolutely no experience in this area and the topic is far too complex for a book of this nature, although there are numerous potential health and safety problems related to the crew as well as the passengers. The Commercial Aviation Safety Team is deeply involved in this process and focuses their resources on the following areas of risk: weather conditions, turbulence, loss of control, icing, maintenance, etc. They analyze data, identify hazards, develop safety recommendations, implement cost-effective safety enhancements, evaluate implementation of the regulations, and use Best Practices of specific knowledge and practices to improve the overall aviation system.) (See endnote 14.)

Employees are exposed to severe noise, temperature extremes, fuel vapors, diesel emissions, carbon monoxide, chemical cleaners, solid and hazardous wastes, bodily fluids, blood-borne pathogens, SARS, influenza, etc. They also are exposed to numerous motor vehicles with potential for accidents, falls especially from a height, ergonomic concerns, and physical stresses related to repetitive actions, movement of baggage, and disabled people. Also individuals in each of the specific occupations involved with the aircraft may have occupational hazards related to their work, such as electricians being electrocuted while performing specific tasks.

Best Practices to Reduce or Eliminate Occupational Health and Safety Concerns from Airlines

  • (See endnotes 11, 12, 13, 15)
  • • Reduce noise exposure and potential hearing loss, ringing in the ears, fatigue, and inattention, by wearing appropriate noise reduction devices and limiting the amount of time that an individual is in an environment that exceeds 85 dBA in an 8-hour work shift. Require that individuals who are in noisy environments be medically tested on a periodic basis to determine any potential hearing loss problems and assign the individual to a quieter work situation.
  • • Reduce heat exposure and subsequent potential illness, inattention, and fatigue by determining the environmental temperature and humidity, radiant heat sources, amount of contact with hot objects, direct sun exposure, limited air movement, and use of special bulky equipment and remove the individual from this environment periodically and frequently. Require that the individual has frequent physical examinations, is well hydrated, is acclimated to the heat in increasing periods of time, and does not drink alcohol. Instruct all supervisory personnel to immediately provide medical attention for any employees if any symptoms of heat-related conditions occur. These same guidelines apply to situations where the workers are performing in very cold or wet conditions.
  • • Reduce falls and severity of injuries for maintenance work, inspection work, cleaning and washing of aircraft, food catering, when opening doors to the plane, etc., by using appropriately constructed work platforms, lift equipment, ladders, fall arrest systems, and appropriate restraint systems. Provide a qualified program manager for fall protection who will supervise the individuals at risk for falls and the equipment necessary to prevent this type of incident. If the individual can fall 4 feet or more, he/she should be trained to recognize the hazards, how to use the fall protection equipment, and wear appropriate shoes and other clothing. All leaks of hydraulic fluids, oils, or other fluids must be immediately and completely cleaned up. Use designated walkways when walking on the wing of the aircraft. Use extra caution when the aircraft surfaces are wet, or covered with snow, frost, or ice. Personnel should never be allowed to walk on wet surfaces unless it is extremely urgent and then he/she must wear proper safety harnesses.
  • • To prevent musculoskeletal disorders due to ergonomic problems in the workplace, the employers should: establish a program to avoid these types of injuries with clear goals and objectives and the process necessary to protect the employees; identify the problems in advance and determine how best to correct these situations while involving the workers in the survey as well as the solutions; provide appropriate training and continuing education to all employees concerning the hazards of their job and how to avoid serious consequences; encourage the early reporting of potential injuries and muscular skeletal symptoms; and implement solutions to ergonomic problems quickly and evaluate the progress of the program regularly.
  • • Workers including the individuals moving passengers in wheelchairs as well as aircraft cabin cleaners must not clean up the blood, urine, feces, or vomit of sick passengers without proper personal protective equipment, appropriate cleaning and disinfecting materials and equipment, and appropriate disposal of all hazardous waste. The airline and airport employees should have all necessary vaccinations provided by the employer. Medical treatment and follow-up medical treatment should be provided by the employer to all employees who have been exposed to a variety of diseases. Have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigate all instances of the transmission of blood- borne diseases.
  • • All airport workers should be taught how to protect themselves from the spread of infectious diseases which may be brought into the airports by people from abroad or American citizens returning from areas where there are outbreaks of disease.
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