The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) were enacted on 5th February 2004. It was enacted by the parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Its main aim was to ensure safety, health and welfare of persons at work. The act assists to provide research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety. Since aviation industry is one of the places where majority of people are employed, it has to comply with the provisions of the Act. Unlike other workplace Acts, OSHA provides assistance to both employers and workers. The Act covers private workers in all 50 states in U.S. Since OSHA does not cover employees of the state and federal government workers, the federal agencies must have a safety and health program that meet the same standards as private employers. OSHA does not fine federal agencies but it monitors them and responds to workers complaints. Those not covered by the Act includes the self-employed, immediate family members of employers and workplace hazards regulated by another federal agency (for example, Federal Aviation Administration). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and OSHA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance safety and health in the aviation industry. They established a joined team to identify the factors to be considered in determining whether OSHA requirements can be applied in the aviation industry. Their released a report which fulfills the objectives identified in the MOU.
OSHA involvement in the aviation industry
In December 1999, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline division with membership of over 40,000 workers in U.S. decided to air their grievances concerning the safety of workers (Teamsters, 2005). Their members include flight crew deck, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics, fuelers, ramp workers, passenger service agent and others. Their comments addressed the lack of protection of airline employees under the current interpretation and application of the Occupation Safety and Health Act (Teamsters, 2005). They advocated that this iniquity be remedied by the MOU between FAA and OSHA. They anticipated that jurisdiction of occupational safety and health matters which do not encroach upon the safety of flight issues be vested in OSHA. They asserted that OSHA was promulgated to ensure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation is safe and is in healthful working conditions (Teamsters, 2005). The most fundamental and social purpose of OSHA is to protect the lives and health of human beings in the context of their employment (OSHA, 2011). Teamsters Airline Division asserted that Federal Aviation Authority was only concerned with aircraft safety and the safety of the flight and not employee safety. They further accused Federal Aviation Authority of asserting a jurisdictional claim over the occupational safety and health of aircrews and in federal state courts, siding with air carriers in opposing OSHA citations (Teamsters, 2005). Air carriers claim that aviation employees are exempt from OSHA jurisdiction because the aviation industry is regulated by Federal Aviation Authority. This is strongly opposed by Teamsters. Teamsters explains that working conditions of employees are only exempt from OSHA jurisdiction only when they are subjected to regulation by an agency which has statutory authority to prescribe or enforce standards or regulations affecting occupational safety or health (Teamsters, 2005). According to OSHA, employer must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. There is no such language in Federal Aviation Act (Workers, 2013).
Many of the hazards found in aviation are similar to those found in other industries (Teamsters, 2005). An aircrew member exposed to radiation rays has the same potential of getting cancer as a similar worker in a nuclear plant (Teamsters, 2005). A painter in aviation industry exposed to paint vapors may just have central nervous damage like the worker in automobile plant. An aircraft mechanic who falls in unguarded ground may just sustain the same injury like a construction site worker. Therefore just like any industry, aviation industry must also adhere to the rules and regulations whereby responsibilities and rights are adhered to (Herwald, 1997). The following are some of the responsibilities of employer under the OSHA Act which are applicable to aviation industry (Herwald, 1997). The following are some of the regulations by OSHA which are applicable in aviation industry (FAA/OSHA, 2000).
An employer must:
- Meet the general duty responsibility to provide a workplace free from health hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
- Be familiar with mandatory OSHA standards and make copies available to employees for review upon request.
- Inform all employees about OSHA
- Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable standards
- Minimize or reduce hazards
- Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment (including appropriate personal protective equipment) and that such equipment is properly maintained.
- Use colour codes, posters, labels or signs when needed to warn employees of potential hazard
- Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
- Provide training required by the OSHA standards
- Report to the nearest OSHA office within 8 hours any fatal accident or one that results in hospitalization of three or more employees
- Keep OSHA required records of work related injuries and illness and post a copy of totals on the last page of OSHA 2OO of February every year.
- Post at prominent location within the work place, the OSHA poster (OSHA 2203) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
- Provide to employees, former employees and their representative access to the log and summary of occupational injuries and sickness at reasonable time and reasonable manner.
- Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives.
- Not discriminate against employees who properly exercise their rights under the Act
- Post OSHA citations at or near the work site involved. Each citation or copy must remain posted until the violation has been abated or for three working days whichever is longer.
- Abate cited violations within the prescribed period
The following are the rights of the employer under OSHA Act which are applicable in aviation industry (FAA/OSHA, 2000).
An employer has a right to:
- Seek advice and off-site consultations as needed by writing, calling or visiting the nearest OSHA office. (OSHA will not inspect merely because employer has requested.
- Be active in your industry association involvement in job safety and health.
- Request and receive proper identification of the OSHA compliance officer
- Be advised by the compliance officer of the reason for an inspection
- Have an opening and closing conference with the compliance officer
- Accompany the compliance officer on inspection
- File a notice of contest with the OSHA director within 15 working days of receipt of a notice of citation and proposed penalty.
- Apply to OSHA for a temporary variance from a standard if unable to comply because of unavailability of materials, equipment or personnel needed to effect the changes.
- Apply to OSHA for a permanent variance from a standard if you can furnish proof that your facilities or method of operation provide employee protection at least as effective as that required by the standard.
- Take an active role in developing safety and health standards through participation in OSHA standard and verification committees, through nationally recognized standard setting organizations and through evidence and views presented in writings or at hearings.
- Be assured of the confidentiality of any trade secrets observed by an OSHA compliance officer during inspection.
- Submit a written request for information as to whether any substance at your place has potentially harmful effect in concentration being used.
Each employee is also required to comply with all occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations and orders issued under the Act that area applicable (Workers, 2013).
An employee should:
- Read the OSHA poster at the job-site
- Comply with the applicable OSHA standards
- Follow all employer safety and health rules and regulations and wear or use prescribed protective equipment while engaged in a workplace
- Report hazardous conditions to the supervisor
- Cooperate with OSHA compliance officer during inspection
- Exercise your right under the Act in responsible manner
The employees have the right to seek safety and health on the job without fear or punishment (Teamsters, 2005). The Act stipulates that an employer should not punish or discriminate against a worker for exercising rights such as complaining to employer, filing safety and health grievances, participating in a workplace safety health committee or union activities concerned with job safety or those participating in OSHA inspection or conferences and hearings (OSHA, 2011).
Following the MOU between OSHA and Federal Aviation Authority on how they could apply the provisions of the Act, they released a report of their findings.
The following were the findings of their report (FAA/OSHA, 2000) with respect to seven subject areas.
OSHA’s existing regulations on recording and reporting occupational injuries and illness are applicable to all employees in aviation industry. Compliance with these regulations does not implicate aviation safety concerns.
Blood borne Pathogens
Requirements of OSHA’s blood borne pathogens standards concerning Hepatitis B vaccinations, personal protective equipment and exposure training could be applied to employees on aircraft in operation (other than flight deck crew) without compromising aviation safety. However, the requirement by OSHA that necessitate engineering and administrative controls may implicate aviation safety and may need to be subjected to FAA’s approval.
Training and testing requirements of OSHA’s standard on occupational exposure to noise could be applied to employees on aircraft in operation (other than flight deck crew) without compromising aviation safety. However, requirement that necessitate the use of engineering and administrative controls and personal protective equipment would be subjected to FAA’s approval.
Since OSHA’s sanitation is flexible and performance oriented, it could be applied to aircraft operations without compromising aviation safety. However, sanitary conditions on aircraft are regulated by several federal agencies in addition to FAA therefore any considerations of applying OSHA’s requirements must be informed by a discussion of the effects of the multi-agency regulation.
Compliance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard would not compromise aviation safety. Under the various circumstances the team has considered, employers could comply with the standards requirements while remaining sensitive to flight safety concerns.
The anti-discrimination requirements of OSHA could be applied to employees of aircraft in operation (other than flight deck crew) without compromising aviation safety. Although OSHA Act has been interpreted to provide employees with the right to refuse to perform work tasks in certain limited situations, the team can conceive of few scenarios in which a safety or health hazard associated with the standards considered in their report would represent the immediate and degree of danger required to justify a work refusal protected under the OSHA Act.
Access to employees’ exposure and medical records
The standards of OSHA on access to employee exposure and medical records do not regulate working conditions. Compliance with the standards does not compromise aviation safety.
Authority of Occupational Safety and Health Administration over working conditions
The OSHA Act was promulgated to assure that every working man and woman is in safe end healthful working conditions (FAA/OSHA, 2000). To achieve this congress delegated broad and general authority to the secretary of labor to regulate working conditions that affect occupational health of the national employees (FAA/OSHA, 2000). Therefore OSHA has got authority to regulate the working conditions in the aviation industry. Their authority is only limited when the federal agency has exercised its authority in a manner such as to exempt the cited working conditions from OSHA’s jurisdiction (FAA/OSHA, 2000).
The authority to regulate the Health and safety of employees in aviation industry
Historically the Federal Aviation Authority has been reluctant to enforce regulations of the OSHA standards (Herwald, 1997). Where Federal Aviation Authority has not preempted OSHA from enforcing its standards and regulations, OSHA generally has exercised its authority with respect to working conditions of employees (FAA/OSHA, 2000).
Addressing working conditions of crew members in aircraft operations
Several attempts have been made between OSHA and FAA to address the safety of all aviation employees including crew members on aircraft operations (Teamsters, 2005). However, most of these attempts have been unsuccessful considering the complex and interwoven nature of the aviation safety issues and the occupational safety and health issues (FAA/OSHA, 2000). FAA believes that they have enough stringent rules that govern the working conditions of the crew members in operation which are of the same standard with those of OSHA (Teamsters, 2005). Among these regulations that address slip-resistant floor surfaces, flight attendant duty period limitations and rest, flight attendant initial and transitional training requirements, protective breathing equipment for crew members, emergency exits, noise reduction, heating , ventilation, carbon monoxide and cabin ozone concentration among others (FAA/OSHA, 2000).
Since the MOU between OSHA and FAA demonstrated that OSHA Act was applicable in the aviation industry, there was a limit to the enforcement of this Act by OSH. It’s the duty of the federal states to work effectively to ensure that the OSHA requirements are met. But OSHS is open for every employee to file complaints with them and they follow the complaints exhaustively, therefore they are very active. Since a worker has the right to file a complaint without OSHA telling the employer who filed the complaint, the aviation industry has been kept on its toes to improve the safety of its workers under the OSHA Act (Workers, 2013). Due to the fact that OSHA has different ways of receiving complaints (Mail, OSHA complaint form, online through OSHA website and by telephone) there have been sufficient receipts of complaints from all industries and aviation included (Workers, 2013). The workers also have a right under OSHA to talk privately to the inspector. OSHA have been able to educate several employees due to their wide range of educational materials which includes brochures, Factsheets, guidance documents, online safety health tips, posters, quick takes among others (OSHA, 2011).
OSHA Act was enacted to cater for the welfare of members across all sectors therefore aviation industry has not been an exempted. Since the enactment of OSHA Act, occupational injuries/illness incidence rates have fallen. In 1973, the rate was 11 injuries/illness per 100 workers compared with the current rate which is 1 injury in seven workers. The regulations by OSHA have been very effective in the aviation industry because they do not just wait for reports but they welcome complaints from all workers and they are always ready to act. They also do not just sit and wait but they go further to inspect work-sites to enforce OSHA laws hence protecting workers. Due to their highly trained professional workers, OSHA has been able to identify health hazards and make recommendations to the aviation industry hence protecting the workers from injuries. The federal states should continue to work closely with OSHA to help improve the working conditions of the employees in the aviation industry.