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 https://www.osha.gov.

April 1, 2014

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
Applicability of Certain OSHA Standards to Cabin Crew Members on Aircraft in Operation

The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you that OSHA now has limited authority over the working conditions of cabin crew members (e.g., flight attendants) while they are onboard aircraft in operation. Beginning March 26, 2014, OSHA will apply its standards for noise, hazard communication and bloodborne pathogens to the working conditions of cabin crew members (but not flight deck crew) on aircraft in operation. OSHA and the airlines have agreed that the airlines may implement modified training programs to comply with the training components of these standards until January 1, 2015, at which time their training programs will have to include in-person training sessions for all OSHA-required training.


In 1975, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determined that its authority to promote the safety of civil aircraft operations "completely encompass[ed] the safety and health aspects of the work environments of aircraft crew members" (40 FR 29114). FAA concluded that, with respect to civil aircraft in operation, the "overall FAA regulatory program ... fully occupies and exhausts the field of aircraft crew member occupational safety and health." This meant that, pursuant to Section 4(b)(1) of the OSH Act, OSHA requirements did not apply to working conditions of crew members on aircraft in operation.1

Following meetings between OSHA and FAA, stakeholder outreach, public notice and a comment period, FAA issued a new policy statement on August 26, 2013 2. This policy recognizes that FAA's regulatory program does not address all working conditions of aircraft cabin crew members, specifically those addressed by the OSHA standards for noise, hazard communication and bloodborne pathogens. Therefore, it recognizes that OSHA may apply these three standards to the working conditions of cabin crew members on aircraft in operation. Please note that the policy statement does not cover flight deck crew (pilots).

Other OSHA requirements do not address working conditions; therefore they have always applied to all employees, including airline cabin crew. These include OSHA's regulations on recordkeeping and on access to employee exposure and medical records. Also applicable is OSHA's anti-discrimination provision, Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. The anti-discrimination provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century ("AIR 21"), 49 U.S.C. § 42121, also apply to all air carrier employees.

The new FAA Policy Statement took effect September 26, 2013, with OSHA enforcement to begin on March 26, 2014, as explained below.

OSHA Responsibilities

The following three OSHA standards, and only these standards, will apply to the working conditions of crew members on aircraft in operation: hazard communication, 29 C.F.R. §1910.1200; bloodborne pathogens, 29 C.F.R. §1910.1030; and noise, 29 C.F.R. §1910.95.

During OSHA outreach and compliance assistance activities, many airlines said that it would be infeasible to complete in-person training sessions for all OSHA-required training by March 26, 2014, due to FAA requirements for training schedules. OSHA has agreed that, through December 31, 2014, affected airlines may comply with the training components of the above listed standards by providing all information and training the standards require through alternative methods such as comprehensive written bulletins or electronic information, so long as they also provide access to a person who can answer questions that arise during the time of training. They will not need to provide the in-person training that would otherwise be required during this start-up period. This accommodation will allow affected airlines until January 2015 to incorporate the OSHA-required training into their existing FAA-required training schedules.

OSHA will treat the majority of complaints related to these three standards using the non-formal process. The following is intended to guide OSHA compliance officers (CSHOs):

  • OSHA anticipates that investigations of allegations of violations of these three programmatic standards with respect to crew members on aircraft in operation will be conducted without a need for any on-site inspection of aircraft in operation.

    • An aircraft is in operation from the time it is first boarded by a crew member, preparatory to a flight, to the time the last crew member leaves the aircraft after completion of that flight, including stops on the ground during which at least one crew member remains on the aircraft, even if the engines are shut down.
    • An aircraft cabin crew member means a person assigned to perform duty in an aircraft cabin when the aircraft is in operation (other than flightcrew members).
  • Should additional information be required, OSHA should attempt to obtain the information at the airline's hub or other facility by conducting employee interviews, and asking for OSHA-required written programs and records.

  • If, during the course of an unrelated inspection, a CSHO becomes aware of a violation related to the above three standards associated with the working conditions of aircraft cabin crew members, the CSHO shall document the alleged violation and initiate a non-formal investigation , notify the airline and request abatement confirmation.

    • Note: OSHA continues to enforce the following requirements for all air carrier employees: OSHA's recordkeeping and access to medical and exposure regulations, and complaints of retaliation for activities protected by AIR 21 and Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
  • Should the Region determine that a working condition is covered by an FAA requirement, the Region or Area Office shall refer the issue to Mary Lynn in the Directorate of Enforcement Programs, who will facilitate the referral of those issues to the FAA.

State Plan Coverage

OSHA has discussed this change with the state-plan States and they have agreed that Federal OSHA will maintain authority over crew members on aircraft in operation.

Should you have additional questions concerning the subject matter of this memorandum, please contact either Dionne Williams at (202) 693-2190 or Mary Lynn at (202) 693-1995.


1. Federal Register Notice, August 27, 2013
2. FAA Policy Statement, August 21, 2013

1 Section 4(b)(1) of the OSH Act provides that nothing in the OSH Act "shall apply to working conditions of employees with respect to which other Federal agencies ... exercise statutory authority to prescribe or enforce standards or regulations affecting occupational safety or health."*

2 The timing of this policy was partly driven by the fact that the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required FAA to initiate development of a policy statement to set forth the circumstances in which requirements of OSHA may be applied to crew members while working in an aircraft.*