August 30, 2013

The FAA on Aug. 26 issued a final policy on the application of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to aircraft flight attendants. The document makes clear that all Part 91 and Part 135 operations that use at least one cabin crewmember are covered by the policy.

Occupational safety aboard aircraft was regulated solely by the FAA since 1975. The FAA in Dec. 2012 announced a proposed policy, as required by the FAA reauthorization bill passed last year, providing for some safety and health conditions affecting cabin crewmembers – such as noise and bloodborne pathogens – to be regulated by OSHA.

During the federal policy review period, NBAA, in coordination with the NBAA Flight Attendants Committee, developed comments to the public docket providing an analysis of the proposed policy, and raised several concerns, including that:

  1. The notice did not identify the full scope of OSHA regulations that could apply to aircraft cabins – what beyond noise and bloodborne pathogens might be included. Additionally, the notice did not, as required by law, determine what effect the proposed policy might have on small and medium sized businesses.
  2. In non-commercial and on-demand commercial flight operations, there are times when the flightcrew must leave the flight deck to assist passengers. In those cases, do the flightcrew become cabin crew for the purposes of OSHA compliance?
  3. Aircraft are designed to cross state lines, yet many states have chosen to “opt-out” of OSHA’s standards, leaving multiple standards that might apply over the course of a single flight.

NBAA’s comments also offered a proposal for a more systemic and workable approach for business aircraft operators to respond to OSHA regarding specific aircraft workplace-safety issues. However, despite the business aviation community’s demonstrated history of collaboration with government safety agencies, OSHA moved ahead with the publication of its final version of the proposed policy.

Operators have six months to develop programs for compliance with OSHA regulations for the specified conditions.

The ramifications of the FAA’s final policy remain unclear. NBAA is studying the policy. Once the Association, with its Flight Attendants Committee and legal counsel, has had time to review it, NBAA will provide guidance to Members for meeting the six-month compliance timeline under the new rule.

Review NBAA’s comments from earlier this year on the proposed policy. (336 KB, PDF)