Air Transportation: Actions to Improve Employee Safety
- Mark A. Friend (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) | Alan J. Stolzer (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) | Michael O'Toole (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- February 2017
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 28 - 31
- 2017. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 34 since 2007
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- The air transportation industry’s incidence rate for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses is nearly four times the national rate for all private industry.
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) now requires a safety management system (SMS) for scheduled airlines. Although it is an effective way to address safety and health problems, an SMS is not required for all segments of the industry, nor does it address the safety and health needs of employees.
- OSHA and FAA should work together to help ensure the safety and health needs of all air transportation employees.
In 2015, the incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work for the air transportation industry was 3.6 per 100 full-time workers. This was significantly higher than the national rate for all private industry, which was 1.0. It also exceeded every other transportation sector (BLS, 2016).
In January 2015, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, 2015a) distributed Advisory Circular (AC) 120-92B, Safety Management Systems for Aviation Service Providers. The circular required businesses that have considered applying for, have applied for, or hold a Part 121 certificate (scheduled airlines) (14 CFR Part 121, Operating Requirements: Domestic, Flag and Supplemental Operations) to implement a safety management system (SMS) based on the requirements in the AC. The circular states, “This AC may also be helpful if you hold a certificate other than Part 121 or are not certificated because the AC can be used to voluntarily develop and implement an SMS” (FAA, 2015a). The certificate holder was required to submit an implementation plan to the FAA administrator no later than Sept. 9, 2015, and that plan must have been approved no later than March 9, 2016 (FAA, 2015b). Air carriers have until March 9, 2018, to develop and implement the plan (FAA, 2015c). According to FAA (2015a):
SMS [are] becoming a standard throughout the aviation industry worldwide. . . . Similar management systems are used in the management of other critical areas such as quality, occupational safety and health, security, environment, etc. SMS for product/service providers (certificate holders) and regulators will integrate modern safety risk management and safety assurance concepts into repeatable, proactive systems. SMS emphasize safety management as a fundamental business process to be considered in the same manner as other aspects of business management. (FAA, 2015a)
In considering SMS rulemaking, FAA (2009) envisioned that aerospace product/service providers would integrate a systematic, risk-based and process- oriented approach to managing safety into their operations and governance, including changes to necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures. Such an approach stresses not only compliance with technical standards, but increases emphasis on those management systems that ensure risk management and safety assurance.It would appear that the new rule effectively addresses those hazards, risks and mishaps that lead to nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. However, the rule is not focused on employee protection. Rather, it is aimed at aviation operational processes only. Although air carriers might extend their SMS to nonaviation-related activities, such as OSH issues, FAA does not require or enforce that.
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