[ RadSafe ] Special Session on Radiation in Flight

jjshonka at shonka.com jjshonka at shonka.com
Mon Feb 2 15:58:33 CST 2015

Sorry Andy (Philip) for the name issue

There is a regulatory framework that could result in OSHA assuming responsibility from the FAA.  There was a fatal fall accident in the early 1980s (painter fell 27 feet off tailstand with retracted slides and railings).  There was considerable interest in aviation publications at the time.  American Airlines appealed a $10,050 OSHA fine asserting preemption of OSHA regulations by FAA.  The 10 year later decision stated:

“ In sum, the FAA only requires the airlines to prepare ground operations manuals. As these manuals are not subject to FAA approval or disapproval, their safety provisions lack the force and effect of law necessary to constitute an exercise of regulatory authority preempting OSHA. Accordingly, we affirm that part of Judge Brady’s decision rejecting AA’s preemption claim. ”

If it came to court, the same argument would be true of radiation safety.  In addition, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, provides: 

“No later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall ... initiate development of a policy statement to set forth the circumstances in which requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may be applied to crewmembers while working in an aircraft.”

Following that act, there was a MOU (August, 2014) between FAA and OSHA that addresses industrial safety for flight attendants (covers cabin and not flight deck).  They now have 3 areas OSHA is responsible for, and a process for evaluating whether OSHA should assume other roles.  Thus far, however, the working group has been silent on radiation protection.  It is very early in the process.
So, although it is not currently under consideration, there is a path for an independent agency (OSHA) to assume responsibility for radiation safety of aircrew in the US.  In a way, if parallels the argument made in the late 1960s that the then USAEC had an inherent conflict of interest in both promoting and regulating nuclear power in the US.  That argument led to the breakup of the AEC into today’s NRC and DOE.  In a similar way, the FAA has used a laissez-faire approach to radiation safety in order to accommodate the industry and does not require airlines to have manuals with safety provisions subject to FAA approval.  This has left individual workers responsible for their own dosimetry and safety program, a unique approach in all of Health Physics. 


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