Flight attendants in the United States are calling for the government to step up action against human trafficking by funding mandatory training to help them spot victims in the air.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), the world’s largest flight attendant union, said its 50,000 members from 18 airlines can act as a massive network of trained eyes in the skies, potentially saving millions of lives.
The call came two years after U.S. authorities launched an anti-trafficking campaign called Blue Lightning to encourage airlines to train personnel on how to identify potential traffickers and report suspicious activity to police.
Facing strong opposition from flight attendants and lawmakers, the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it was abandoning a plan to allow passengers to carry small knives on board.
The proposal would have loosened some of the restrictions created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. John S. Pistole, the agency’s administrator, argued that the plan would allow airport security agents to focus on “higher threat” items. Looking for small pocketknives that pose little threat to an airliner, he said, was time-consuming and potentially distracting to agents looking for explosives that can bring down a plane, for instance.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a proposed policy statement to establish the extent to which OSHA regulations may apply to flight attendants onboard an aircraft in operation.
An FAA-OSHA memorandum of understanding (MOU) previously established a team to identify factors to be considered when determining when OSHA standards may apply to employees on aircraft in operation.
Section 829 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 instructed the FAA to develop this proposed policy statement setting forth circumstances in which OSHA requirements may be applied to aircraft crewmembers.
The proposed policy statement, subject to amendment following a public comment period, says that because the FAA does not have regulations addressing certain issues, OSHA’s hazard communication, blood-borne pathogens and hearing conservation standards can be applied to the working conditions of flight attendants onboard an aircraft in operation.
The proposed policy statement defines an aircraft “in operation” from the time the first crewmember boards the aircraft to when the last crewmember leaves the aircraft after completion of the flight. The FAA notes that in another MOU, the FAA and OSHA will establish procedures that can be used to identify other conditions where OSHA requirements would apply while ensuring that such requirements would not negatively affect safety.
To read the proposed policy statement, click on the following link:
Fatigue is a serious problem for pilots and flight attendants. Flight attendants additionally are without protections afforded under the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
The UTU, working with the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, as well as the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants, is focused on both of these issues on behalf of UTU’s airline industry members.
Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations permit lengthy and irregular shifts across multiple time zones. There are numerous instances of flight crews being given only eight hours of rest between shifts, and that includes travel to and from the airline terminal, which frequently permits as few as three to five hours of actual sleep.
As we know too well in the railroad industry — and as has been documented by sleep scientists at major universities — going to work fatigued is like going to work drunk. The difference is that an intoxicated person sobers up; but a fatigued transportation worker only becomes more fatigued.
Federal regulation and enforcement is needed, and additional help is on the way with the recent confirmation by the Senate of former airline pilot Randy Babbitt to be the federal aviation administrator. Prior to his nomination by President Obama to head the FAA, Babbitt served on an independent review team examining and making recommendations to improve the FAA’s aviation safety system.
In fact, Babbitt said in June that the FAA will propose, by fall, new limits on how many hours airline pilots can fly. Babbitt said the new limits will take into consideration that pilots flying routes with numerous takeoffs and landings experience more fatigue than pilots on longer flights with only one takeoff and landing.
Current FAA regulations permit pilots to be on duty up to 16 hours, with eight hours of scheduled flight time, and airlines can order them back to work with as few as eight hours between shifts.
The February crash of a commuter plane near Buffalo, N.Y., which killed 50 people, gives greater urgency to revising aviation hours-of-service rules because it was determined that the co-pilot of the doomed flight commuted overnight from near Seattle.
Babbitt said, also, that he wants airlines — including commuter carriers — to participate in two safety programs studying airline safety.
As for flight attendants, they are currently under FAA safety-rules jurisdiction rather than OSHA rules. Yet, the FAA has never prescribed or enforced safety and health standards or regulations, which are the core of OSHA regulations. The administration of George H.W. Bush refused to impose specific workplace protections in the aircraft cabin that had been informally agreed to by airlines.
So it is that the UTU, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants are working jointly in support of legislation requiring the FAA to establish regulations to provide a cabin environment free from hazards that can cause physical harm.
It is expected that Babbitt will move to set such rules, although legislation would ensure they could not be tampered with by future administrations less concerned with workplace safety.