The AFA Air Safety, Health, & Security Committee (ASHSC) has long had a critical role in assisting Flight Attendants who find themselves in a situation where they may have been exposed to contaminated cabin air. This article is designed to provide some important information and resources to help you should you ever find yourself in a situation where you believe you might have experienced an exposure event. We’d also like to provide some background on how AFA provides assistance and support in suspected air quality exposure incidents.
What Do I Do?
If you believe you might have been exposed to contaminated air aboard the aircraft, follow these steps:
1. Identify The Situation
If you encounter unusual fumes, odors, smoke, or haze:
- Quickly rule out non-ventilation sources (i.e. ovens, coffee makers, garbage)
- If the source is the air from the vents in the cabin, there is possibly oil/hydraulic fluid contamination.
- Report the situation to the pilots immediately. Use the AFA Onboard Air Quality Checklist as a tool if possible.
- If no passengers are on board, step off the aircraft, especially if maintenance boards to test systems
- Avoid breathing fumes coming from vents, if possible
2. Get Help If Sick
- If in the air, notify the pilots to call Medlink
- If still at the gate, ask the CSA to call paramedics. Deplane if possible.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some tests must be performed as soon as possible to detect exposure. Your symptoms can persist, worsen, or return after another incident.
- Call AFA for help (call 206-457-2010, extension 1101 or email email@example.com)
- Print and begin completing the AFA exposure checklist
- Review the AFA International Air Quality website
3. Report & Document
- File an employee injury report with the company
- File an irregularity report with the company
- File an ASAP report with the company
- Keep printed copies of each report
- Send a copy of the completed employee injury report to the ASHSC Vice Chairperson.
- Ask a supervisor to complete their Alaska Airlines air quality checklist with you
- If sick, file a worker’s compensation claim and see a doctor as quickly as possible. Claims do not start until you see a doctor.
- Keep a symptom diary and document everything with a doctor
What Resources Are Available?
AFA Alaska Website
Information on what to do in the event of exposure to contaminated cabin air is available on the AFA Alaska website. You can find the complete checklist at http://afaalaska.org/ashsc/airquality/checklist. On your IMD or other mobile device, you can easily access this information by opening the AFA Alaska app or visiting afaalaska.org and clicking the “air quality exposure info” link from the home page.
Air Quality Exposure Quick Reference Card
Wallet size cards explaining what to do in a contaminated cabin air exposure event have just been updated to include Airbus fleet information and will soon be available in each base. These cards can be kept in a badge holder behind your crew ID or in your purse or wallet for when you need to access them quickly. You can also print your own card from the AFA Alaska website by clicking here.
AFA Onboard Air Quality Checklist
This is a form that you and your crew can use to document a possible cabin air exposure event as it happens and accurately report and describe the situation to the flight deck. This is not a company form and each Flight Attendant should print and carry one with them so that it is available if needed. You can print the form and find instructions on how to use it on the AFA Alaska website by clicking here.
Local Air Safety, Health, & Security (ASHSC) Committee
The members of your Local Air Safety, Health, & Security Committee are available as a resource to assist you. You can find contact information for your Local ASHSC on the ASHSC page of afaalaska.org.
What Happens Behind the Scenes?
Once management notifies AFA that a situation involving potential exposure to contaminated cabin air has occurred, a coordinated response process begins behind the scenes. MEC Air Safety, Health, & Security Committee (ASHSC) Vice Chairperson Yvette Satterlee activates AFA’s response procedures and makes contact with the crew. Yvette ensures that the Flight Attendants have information about what to do if they’re feeling sick and what reports to file with the company. The AFA Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Committee also contacts the Flight Attendants to offer their support. The LEC Officers from the Local Council of the affected Flight Attendants are also notified of the situation and are available to provide assistance if needed.
After the incident, ASHSC, EAP, and the LEC Officers continue to assist the Flight Attendants. This ongoing support takes the form of providing information about oil and hydraulic fumes for the medical providers of the affected crew members, coordinating operational debriefs with management, requesting aircraft maintenance records, and additional activities to help affected Flight Attendants through the treatment and recovery process.
Please contact your Local ASHSC if you have any questions about contaminated cabin air. You can find contact information for your Local ASHSC on the ASHSC page of afaalaska.org.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Linda Christou, Lisa Pinkston, Terry Taylor, Mario de’Medici, Melissa Osborne, Tim Green, Brice McGee; MEC ASHSC Chairperson Seth Heiple and MEC ASHSC Vice Chairperson Yvette Satterlee