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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
November 14, 1990
The Honorable Arlen Specter
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Specter:
This is in further response to your letter of July 17, on behalf of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Potomac Air Lodge 1976 in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, concerning the respective jurisdictional responsibilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with specific reference to an occupational safety and health inspection conducted by OSHA at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. You requested an analysis of the jurisdictional issue between the two agencies, and to be kept informed of the status of the US Air investigation. Please accept my apology for the delay in this response.
The citations issued by OSHA's Pittsburgh Area Office were contested by US Air and remain in litigation. Although US Air rejects OSHA's authority to regulate the working conditions of its employees, our Pittsburgh office received a letter from the company detailing what they had done to correct the cited items that are presently under contest.
FAA issues and enforces rules and regulations concerning the manufacture, operation, and maintenance of aircraft. Under FAA's regulatory system, aircraft manufacturers and airline carriers develop maintenance manuals that become binding on the carriers if FAA does not disapprove these manual provisions. Some of the provisions explicitly address issues that relate to the occupational safety and health of airline maintenance and ground support personnel.
Section 4(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits OSHA enforcement for those working conditions regulated by other agencies. In the case of airline employers, OSHA's jurisdiction is limited to a significant degree by the regulatory authority of the FAA. In 1980, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (Review Commission) ruled that OSHA may not enforce its standards for airline ground crews, such as baggage handlers, mechanics, and others, if the working conditions in question are addressed in an FAA-approved maintenance or operations manual. In keeping with this Review Commission decision, OSHA may issue citations only for those hazards which are not addressed in the FAA-approved manuals. Our inspections in the airline industry indicate that many hazardous working conditions of ground crews are, in fact, addressed in these manuals. This leaves little room for OSHA enforcement and has resulted in referral of cases to the FAA for appropriate action.
Your constituent raised the question of the FAA not having established standards addressing hazardous chemical information or hearing conservation. Our conversations with FAA staff indicate that the agency does not have standards that address these areas of workplace safety and health. Therefore, OSHA was correct in asserting jurisdiction over the cited hazards.
In your closing, you requested to be kept informed of the progress of the US Air case. The case is awaiting a hearing date before a Review Commission judge. Because your constituent has elected third-party status, he should have first-hand knowledge of the status of the case throughout the proceedings.
Please be assured that we will continue to work with FAA when jurisdictional issues arise. If you or your constituent have further questions on this matter, please contact my office.
Gerard F. Scannell