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03 August 1999

On-board hazards blow sky-high
In-flight hazards will injure thousands of passengers and cabin crew members this summer, according to an investigation by Labour Research magazine. Cabin baggage accidents, long working hours, violence, pesticides and polluted air will all cause problems on-board.

But the authorities are not only doing very little to avert the dangers, they admit that they are not ensuring the health and safety of cabin crew.

The most dramatic hazard is of items falling out of overhead baggage lockers, which injure some 20,000 people every year. One of the worst examples was in 1996 when a woman flying on a New Orleans to Atlanta flight had her spine compressed when a laptop computer fell onto her head. But there are less severe cases every day.

Alarmingly, there is no enforceable, uniform restriction on the amount of hand baggage that can be taken on board, and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) apparently has no plans to introduce one.

And cabin crew members, who also suffer from long working hours, cramped working conditions and poor air quality, are not fully protected by enforcement agencies.

Once the plane takes off they fall outside the scope of the Health and Safety Executive. And the CAA, which is responsible for other aspects of air safety, admits that its remit does not cover the safety of staff.

A CAA spokesperson told Labour Research: "Our responsibility is ensuring they (cabin crew) are trained properly, and that's where it stops." She went on to say that this training is about passenger safety only.

Other on-board dangers include violent and abusive passengers, pesticide spray (which is sprayed on both passengers and crew on certain flights and can exacerbate certain medical conditions like asthma) and the recently revealed hazard of air contamination by engine oils.

Notes to editors

Further details of the investigation can be found in the August issue of Labour Research magazine The price of a single copy is ?2.80 (?3.10 including postage).
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 88 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For more details contact Andrea Oates on 0171 902 9826.

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