FAA Policy Statement Cedes Safety Authority to OSHA; SMS Better Tool to Address Range of Such Issues?

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Press Release:  FAA Proposes Policy to Improve Flight Attendant Workplace Safety

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In response to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the FAA has issued a policy statement to define the jurisdiction of OSHA to enforce standards as they apply to crewmembers. Under the new policy, Secretary LaHood announced that flight attendants will be authorized to “report workplace injury and illness complaints to OSHA for response and investigation.” The press release seems to limit the OSHA jurisdiction to exposure to noise and bloodborne pathogens, and access to information on hazardous chemicals. However, it keeps open the possibility that upon further review, other workplace risks can be added.

It will be interesting to see which agency asserts preeminence in authority when the flight attendants document and file complaints about the injuries due to carry-on luggage or other items. Will the Secretary concede the determination of standards to OSHA or will he assert that the FAA should take the lead? Perhaps the Administrator will mention that such situations also involve concerns about passenger injuries and/or airworthiness of the overhead storage? The open ended nature of the policy statement will result in further iterations over similar issues.

Cabin and flight attendant safety is an important component of the operator’s overall safety posture and necessitates that incident and safety data be reported. It would prudent as part of an operator’s SMS program to have that data captured so the carrier, on its own initiative, could take corrective action. That is a task for which JDA has particular competence.

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