August 14, 2009 The Pump Handle 2Comment

The Washington Post’s Sholnn Freeman, noting that the last six fatal airplane accidents in the US involved regional airlines, investigated the conditions of regional air crewmembers and found that they struggle to get adequate sleep near the airports from which they fly:

At first sight, the Sterling Park house looks like an ordinary split-level, complete with carport, backyard grill and freshly mowed grass. But instead of housing a growing suburban family, it offers accommodations for 30 pilots and flight attendants struggling to string together a few precious hours of sleep.

This is a typical crash pad for regional airline flight crews — part of a subculture of boardinghouses jokingly referred to by those who use them as the world’s largest illegal housing network. It’s a makeshift arrangement for people who often have to travel cross-country from the cities where they live to the airports where their jobs are based. A few describe themselves as “somewhat homeless” and complain that they make so little money that they have to make crash pads their primary homes.

Two days after this article ran, Federal Aviation Administration head J. Randolph Babbitt said he would ensure that new regulations from a government rulemaking committee will address the problem of pilot fatigue. 

In other news:

The Oregonian: Four combat veterans testified before a Senate panel about illnesses that they’ve faced since being exposed to hexavalent chromium while stationed at an Iraqi water plant.

Science News: A new report published in JAMA finds that 21% of rescuers who worked in the Ground Zero rubble pile and had no previous history of asthma have since developed the disease. (10% of all exposed people have developed asthma.)

The News Herald (Florida): A lawsuit seeks answers from prison company UNICOR about dust from a computer-recycling program it runs at one of its facilities in Florida. Plaintiffs suffer from a list of medical conditions, including heart disease, respiratory problems, internal bleeding, and bone deterioration, and claim the computer-recycling program creates toxic exposures for prison workers as well as inmates.

Washington Post: Metro track repairman Michael Nash was struck and killed by a gravel-spreading machine while working on replacement of track crossties.

Washington Examiner: A DC regulation that just took effect spells out women’s right to breastfeed their children at work without being harassed, ridiculed, or told to cover their breasts.

2 thoughts on “Occupational Health News Roundup

  1. Liz,

    With regard to the death of Michael Nash…

    I read somewhere the other day that it was actually suspected that he commit suicide. I can’t seem to find where I read it though and there is not much out there on this. It sounds a little suspicious to me that someone would try to kill himself that way. We should definitely keep an eye on this as the investigation unfolds and more information is released.

    On another note, what happened at Qarmat Ali with hexavalent chromium exposure is quite unbelievable. I read the transcript of the hearing last summer when this was just getting started in the Democratic Policy Committee and its just astounding that it was just everywhere in the plant and being blown around in the air.


  2. There have actually been five incidents in recent weeks where Metro passengers have deliberately placed themselves in the path of an oncoming train. I wonder if someone is assuming Nash’s death is part of this disturbing trend? The circumstances of his death were very different, though – for one thing, the vehicle that struck Nash was only reportedly moving at 5-10mph.

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