December 10, 1999


U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
ATTN: DOT Dockets Office
Docket #FAA-1999-6342
400 Seventh Street, SW
Plaza Room #401
Washington, DC 20590

FAA PROPOSAL - SAFETY AND HEALTH ISSUES FOR AIRLINE EMPLOYEES

The purpose of this letter is to provide comment from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) addressing the FAA request for insight on safety and health issues impacting airline employees. To this end, we present the following:

Introduction
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), is the oldest and largest Society of Safety Professionals in the world. Founded in 1911, ASSE represents almost 33,000 dedicated safety professionals. Included in this membership are Certified Safety Professionals, Professional Engineers, agronomists, academicians, fire protection engineers, system safety experts, industrial hygienists, physicians, occupational nurses, and an impressive collection of other disciplines, skills, and backgrounds. We pride ourselves on our dedication to excellence, expertise, and commitment to the protection of people, property, and environment on a world?wide basis.

ASSE serves as Secretariat of seven (7) American National Standards Institute Committees (ANSI) developing safety and health standards which are used by private sector organizations as well as state/Federal governmental agencies such as MSHA, OSHA, etc... ASSE members also sit on over forty (40) additional standards development committees and the Society sponsors educational sessions on standards development. The Society also has twelve (12) technical divisions consisting of: Construction, Consultants, Engineering, Environmental, Health Care, International, Management, Public Sector, Risk Management and Insurance, Mining, Industrial Hygiene, and Transportation. The ASSE members included in these divisions are leaders in their field with the knowledge and expertise needed to move safety and health forward on a global level.

Comment Insights
The intent of ASSE is not to speak either for or against the proposal, but rather to make comments based upon our member views, existing data, and anecdotal information. Based upon this collective insight, we submit the following:

FAA Question #1: Are there specific crewmember occupational safety and health concerns? If so, what are they?

ASSE Response: Air quality is always a significant issue for any worker in an enclosed environment with large numbers of people in close proximity. ASSE members working in the aviation industry have commented that Tuberculosis is an exposure that warrants additional study. The key concern is if there are efficient/effective hazard controls available for such exposures in an aircraft. A potential approach would be for FAA to work with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to continue/initiate studies on air quality in aircraft cabins, hazard controls, and their impact on crewmember exposure to airborne contaminants. The goal would to identify hazard controls which are both efficient and effective for the aviation industry.

The loading of cargo, luggage, and miscellaneous materials, (e.g. food and beverage carts and containers) by crew members, and their relation to cumulative trauma disorder is also an area worthy of consideration. Back injury could be a significant exposure for a flight attendant attempting to place a heavy and awkward piece of luggage into an overhead compartment. Hangars and aircraft maintenance facilities are also areas worthy consideration as they can encompass of wide variety of hazards and exposures ranging from hazardous materials to confined spaces.

FAA Question #2: What recordkeeping data is available that documents injuries and illnesses related to crewmember and other employee occupational safety and health concerns? Should recordkeeping be standardized?

ASSE Response: After reading the above listed question, we are somewhat puzzled, and would like to request that there be some clarification of this issue in the Federal Register if/when the Final Announcement is made. There should already be adequate recordkeeping data available for review by FAA. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) already compiles data for transportation by air and the manufacturing of transportation equipment which we would assume includes production of aircraft and aircraft related maintenance equipment, components, and parts. While there might not be extensive BLS data for aircrews, there should be adequate material for other employee occupational safety and health concerns in the aviation industry.

ASSE is under the impression from our members in the aviation industry that air carriers already maintain OSHA logs for domestic employees or incidents in the United States, thus, we are not sure if there is a need to standardize recordkeeping. However, if we are incorrect FAA may wish to consider citing the OSHA recordkeeping regulation by reference as a model of how safety and health records will be maintained. We see several benefits which include aviation industry safety and health records being comparable to other segments of the economy, FAA could draw upon the expertise and experience of another agency (OSHA) for writing rules, and the aviation industry would benefit since there would be one standardized system for recording occupational safety and health injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Finally, there might be a need to research whether some firms in the aviation industry have to maintain two sets of records depending on their respective applications to meet either OSHA or FAA guidelines, (e.g.: some manufacturing/maintenance applications versus flight operations). If there are duplicative efforts then it might be more efficient/effective for industry to have only one standard to follow. Finally, we are not suggesting that FAA relinquish its enforcement authority to OSHA due to the concerns with federal/state plan OSHA as pointed out in the Federal Register announcement.

FAA Question #3: How are aviation employees other than crewmembers (such as ground service employees and maintenance workers) currently protected by FAA regulations, and should the working conditions of these employees be included in possible future rulemaking? Should the FAA modify its rules about maintenance manuals?

ASSE Response: Our experience indicates that FAA regulations apply to aircraft operations in the Air Operations Area (AOA). This results in civil airports being divided into Airside and Landside. A security barrier such as fences and gates, walls and controlled doorways, etc.,. is established to ensure that only authorized persons can gain entry to the AOA. Our members' experience has been that all persons whose work requires them to enter the AOA must obtain a security badge from the appropriate department. It is also a common practice that In order to obtain a badge, the applicant must study the Airport's safety and security rules for the airfield and ramp operations and satisfactorily pass a written exam on these rules.

When reviewing Airside jurisdictional safety and health issues our members generally follow OSHA standards for ramps, taxiways, and gates where the standards/regulations would apply in addition to FAA guidelines where/when they apply. When working with hangars and aircraft maintenance facilities our members generally use OSHA for guidance, except for aircraft movement, which is subject to FAA regulations. We also believe it is important to remember that there are other requirements impacting safety and health such as the EPA risk management guidelines.

Our members working in the aviation industry believe there is significant crossover between aircrew employees and non-aircrew employees. This would be especially true when it is taken into consideration that many of the activities conducted by maintenance workers are conducted to specifically comply with FAA regulations. It would make sense to have rules which allow such functions to be carried out in safe and healthful manner.

FAA Question #4: Describe how occupational safety and health hazards vary when the aircraft is airborne versus when it is on the ground.

ASSE Response: There are significant hazard exposures for an aircraft when it is not airborne. Many ASSE members commented that the aviation is unique in that it needs to address both occupational safety and health from the industrial perspective, aviation/flight aspects, and security. The result is that the aviation industry has to dedicate significant resources to address safety and health issues in a variety of different venues. Our point is that while there is crossover, there are significant differences between airborne and on-the-ground safety and health. These are just some of the examples we have compiled:

  • Fueling procedures which could be complicated by faulty grounding procedures.
  • Potential accident exposures between mechanized equipment and the aircraft itself.
  • Movement and utilization of potentially hazardous materials, (e.g. hydraulic fluid).
  • Transport of ambulatory passengers requiring lifting or adjustment by the crewmember or other employee.
  • Movement of cargo and luggage from conveyor systems to the aircraft, resulting in the bending/lifting of awkward objects, (e.g. back injury exposure).
  • Maintenance workers being exposed to "pinching" and "crushing" hazards through work on the aircraft, (e.g. landing gear assembly).
  • Noise exposure for groundcrew and maintenance workers.
  • Wide variety of safety and health hazards and exposures in hangers and maintenance facilities when working on aircraft.

Actual incidents/examples of where injuries, illnesses, and fatalities which have taken place in an airport environment include:
  1. An aircraft was pushed back on the ramp resulting in an employee being run over by its nose wheel.
  2. An airport commission inspector was run over and killed by a contractor truck on a runway paving project.
  3. An airport stationery engineer in a pickup making routine checks of pump stations on an airfield drove behind a jet aircraft with its engines on a run at 75% power. The jet blast blew the pickup into a large body of water. Fortunately, the employee survived.

FAA Question #5: Are there any safety issues related to operations on airport ramp areas that the FAA should address?

ASSE Response: FAA might wish to consider the issue of mechanized equipment (luggage transporters) striking aircraft, damaging property, noise, jet exhaust exposures. As we cited in the examples above, there are significant safety issues involving operations and ramp areas. There is also the issue of an airport being a mulit-employer worksite. On the airside the parties involved are multiple which would include the airport authorities, air carriers, aircraft servicing companies (e.g. fuel, food, etc..), contractors, consultants, FAA personnel, and even the post office.

FAA Question #6: In the development of its own occupational safety and health standards, what, if any, OSHA standards should the FAA use as the basis for future FAA standards?

ASSE Response: FAA could consider adopting by reference the CFR 1910 General Industry Safety and Health Standards and CFR 1926 Construction Safety and Health Standards. We understand from reviewing the proposal summary that enabling OSHA to address safety and health issues in the aviation industry is/was not an option due to the fact that the state-plan-states may have regulations with higher requirements, and the enforcement may not always be consistent. However, our view is that it might be more efficient/effective for FAA to adopt the OSHA standards and regulations by citation, and then provide for enforcement through FAA. We see the following as being advantages to such an approach:

  1. FAA would not need to write specific regulations since they will have already been in existence. As an example, we do not think it would be prudent for FAA to dedicate resources to writing a standard for confined space entry, when such a document already exists through OSHA.
  2. OSHA standards and regulations have already underwent public review in the Federal Register, court challenges, and a cost/benefit analysis. From the perspective of rule promulgation and public policy, we believe it would make sense for FAA to use what is already in existence.
  3. FAA and OSHA could still work together on technical evaluations, directives, incident investigations, and letters of interpretation. Since FAA would cite the OSHA standards and regulations, the Agency (FAA) would continue to have access to OSHA occupational safety and health expertise to assist with technical occupational safety and health issues. We see this as a way to increase cooperation between different agencies of the federal government.
  4. ASSE members working in the aviation industry commented that such an approach might also be more efficient from the private sector perspective. As an example, some organizations might have both aviation and industrial safety and health exposures. On occasion, ASSE members have had to maintain different sets of records to be in compliance with the different agencies. It would make sense to try and consolidate the different rules and regulations into a more simplified system.
  5. There is discussion of occupational safety and health being addressed on an international level. Our perception is that OSHA compliance could be of future benefit if there ever is an attempt of international standardization of occupational safety and health systems. Adopting the OSHA standards/regulations could be a proactive move to position the aviation industry for the future.

FAA Question #7: What procedures should be established to identify and remedy issues not addressed by OSHA regulations?

ASSE Response: FAA should consider working with voluntary national consensus standards development organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), etc… Using voluntary national consensus standards would be a win-win approach since the Office of Management and Budget Circular #OMB A-119 and Public Law 104-113 call for the increased utilization of voluntary national consensus standards in federal regulatory rulemaking. The utilization of national consensus standards will be of increased importance to FAA and the aviation industry as the economy of the United States moves towards more of a global perspective.

National consensus standards reflect the opinions of the professionals who work at all levels of the public and private sectors in technology development, manufacturing, training, financial analysis, personnel, academia as well as insight from the final end user. This balanced insight enables standards to be crafted in a way which not only benefits and protects users of the standard, but also furthers the interests of the businesses which have been created to meet user demand. ASSE advocates initiatives to encourage the utilization of national consensus standards as an effective/efficient option for meeting the demand of increased regulation/legislation in occupational safety and health since:

  • National consensus standards have fewer procedural burdens
  • The consensus method provides for a balance between competing interests
  • The voluntary nature of consensus standards enables users to adapt provisions to meet unusual circumstances.
  • Much lower standards development cost are obtained.

It would make sense for FAA to have some type of plan to accommodate the increased usage of voluntary national consensus standards. Also, ASSE suggests that FAA meet with other executive branch agencies to ascertain how these agencies use the national voluntary consensus standards in its regulations and in implementing the provisions the Morella Amendment to the Technology Transfer Act (Public Law 104-113) and OMB Circular A-119. Finally, a strategy should be that the FAA should appoint a specific liaison for the voluntary national consensus standards facilitating bodies, (e.g. ANSI). ASSE has a position statement on the use of voluntary national consensus standards which can be found on our website in the governmental affairs section.

FAA Question #8: Are any air carriers currently supporting occupational safety and health programs for their employees? If so, what do the programs include?

ASSE has a significant number of members currently working for air carriers, and virtually every American air carrier we are aware of has a functioning, and high caliber/quality occupational safety and health program. However, the key question should be what do effective safety and health programs include as key elements. The Society's mission is to support sound actions which enable the development of effective safety and health standards designed to facilitate the identification and control of hazardous conditions and practices. From such standards, hazard control methods, procedures, and programs are initiated to promote positive and pro-active approaches to safety and health. An integral element of these techniques is mandatory quality training and educational requirements which communicate the necessary hazard recognition, control, and avoidance information. This methodology, when properly implemented, has the potential to effectively reduce our nation's workplace injury and illness toll.

Effective and efficient safety and health programs are an important ingredient in a well-managed business program and ultimately provide substantial economic benefits to the organizations which successfully create, implement, and maintain them. It must be clearly understood, however, that there is no "one size fits all" program. To be effective and efficient the safety and health program must be individually tailored to each business and its own specific safety and health priorities. Experience illustrates that companies with a safety and health program that has been integrated into their business operation are successful in containing and reducing workers' compensation claims along with their other related indirect expenses. Rather than discussing overall concepts, we point out that our position statement on safety and health management programs is available on the ASSE website in the governmental affairs section. While this position was submitted to OSHA for the proposed safety and management systems rule, it addresses the overall concept of safety and health programs, and should provide insight into the views/philosophies of ASSE.

FAA Question #9: What are the potential impact and implementation problems associated with the FAA developing occupational safety and health standards to protect airline employee safety and health?

ASSE Response: If the phase-in period is not done correctly, we believe there could be significant concerns with implementation. It would make sense to phase in compliance over a period of eighteen (18) to twenty-four (24 months. FAA may also wish to consider working with the impacted professional associations/societies, trade associations/organizations, and labor organizations to create and implement training/awareness programs for all impacted entities. Such and outreach effort would surely go a long way in supporting safety and health in the workplace. As a potential model, we point to the process used by OSHA in drafting the proposed safety and health management systems rule. OSHA initiated a series of stakeholder meetings in order to answer questions, concerns, and resolve any outstanding issues. While the process was certainly a logistical challenge for the Agency, we are convinced that such a process lays the best groundwork for private/public sector cooperation in implementing this initiative. Also, ASSE would be willing to use its resources in communicating information to its members and the safety and health professional community.

It would also be important to work out a protocol relationship with OSHA so that FAA can call on OSHA when there is a need for their expertise. Several ASSE members working in the aviation industry have worked out procedures with OSHA so that compliance officers can get access onto an airfield when there is such a need. Generally, the compliance officers would come to the appropriate department and arrangements would be made for an airfield operations safety officer to escort the compliance officer wherever they need to go. Such circumstances are generally rare and usually addressed airport construction contractors or in response to an employee complaint. We believe it would be good public policy for FAA to work out a comparable protocol with OSHA and other safety and health agencies, (e.g.: CSB, EPA, NIOSH and OSHA).

We thank you for your attention to this matter, and look forward to working with you in the future. If you should have any questions or issues please do not hesitate to contact the Society.

Regards,

Frank H. Perry, CSP, PE
Society President, 1999-2000

Copy To: ASSE Board of Directors
                  ASSE Council on Professional Affairs
                  ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee
                  ASSE Contact List

FHP/TF/CORRS1246
encl.

     

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