OSHA Onboard

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On August 22, 2013, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) hailed the announcement that some Occupational Safety and Health protections will apply to Flight Attendants working on commercial aircraft. Following AFA’s tireless advocacy to improve safety and health standards for Flight Attendants in the workplace, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized a policy statement that corrects a nearly four-decade-old exclusion of OSHA in the passenger cabin.

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In 1975, the FAA claimed exclusive jurisdiction over workplace safety and health for all crewmembers, preventing OSHA from protecting Flight Attendants while working on board commercial flights. Since then, AFA has pursued multiple legal and regulatory solutions. The final policy statement resulted from years of aggressive AFA advocacy, a memorandum of understanding between the FAA and OSHA signed during the Clinton Administration, follow-through by the Obama Administration, and a thorough FAA and OSHA review of comments submitted by AFA, individual AFA members, and others.

In the months ahead, AFA will work to ensure implementation of the six standards identified in the new policy, as well as full compliance with the relevant training requirements. The new policy includes three standards that affect your rights and that have always been in place: Recordkeeping; Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records; and the Anti-Discrimination (i.e., Whistleblower) provision of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act. The new policy also includes three workplace safety and health standards that did not previously apply to Flight Attendants working in the airplane cabin: Noise; Bloodborne Pathogens; and Hazard Communication (related to Toxic Chemicals). Other existing and proposed OSHA standards could be evaluated and considered for future application. The two agencies are drafting a Memorandum of Understanding to support discussions of how any additional standards could apply in the cabin; AFA is closely monitoring this process.

As OSHA protections enter the airplane cabin, AFA members are asking about the new requirements and how they affect our workplaces. This booklet answers some of these questions, and summarizes key aspects of the six OSHA standards that protect Flight Attendants in the cabin.

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