Ebola Update from the Joint Air Transport Safety Committee (JATSC)


Ebola Update

Concerns centered on Ebola are very much on our minds, especially as we work with the traveling public and provide cleaning and maintenance on our aircraft. Members of the IAM Joint Air Transport Safety Committee have been very involved in these issues that concern the varied jobs that our members perform, both in the air and on the ground.

We have participated in conference calls with our respective airlines that have included the Medical, Safety, Emergency Preparedness and operating departments to discuss the adequacy of our current policies and procedures. We have recommended additional clarifications to our policies that are currently being acted on.

JATSC members have also been very involved in a number of conference calls with other aviation union affiliates of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department along with principles and senior officials from agencies charged with aviation safety, health and security about a coordinated response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

With Ebola now in the US, this highlights the importance and need for worker safety and health precautions and response to communicable disease. It is agreed that infectious disease protocol is very challenging. There needs to be serious attention to the procedures to manage it – both in an occurring event and in future events.

On October 24th we participated in a call with agency officials from the White House, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This unprecedented call brought officials and frontline stakeholders together for a discussion concerning the issues that affect the many different jobs that our members perform.

Topics included training in dealing with a sick passenger, how to isolate a passenger, OSHA enforcement, requirement of a blood borne pathogen plan, sufficient UPK kits onboard an aircraft, requirements of having running water on the aircraft, maintenance and cleaning issues regarding routine protection and especially after a sick passenger has been removed, disinfection of aircraft and many more issues. The current events have shown us that the airlines and various agencies need to be prepared for a pandemic and a plan needs to be in place by the various industries as well as leadership, guidance and enforcement by the various government agencies.

JATSC members will continue to participate in these discussions, providing input concerning our member’s protections.

As this crisis continues to unfold we will likely learn more about this deadly virus and how to effectively protect ourselves, but there are some basic precautions that you should take:

  • Know and understand your company’s policy on protection from blood borne pathogens and follow the policies. Don’t take short cuts “to get the airplane out”.
  • The most important thing is to provide a barrier between any bodily fluid exposure and yourself. Gloves (double gloving in some cases may be recommended), eye and face protection and in some cases, disposable coveralls and booties should be worn when needed. (Refer to the latest CDC guidelines)
  • After use it is important to safely remove all PPE so that no parts of the body come in contact with any exposed PPE. (The CDC has produced a chart to provide guidance as referenced below).
  • Good personal hygiene is also very important. After removing PPE or with any possible exposure to bodily fluids, always wash your hands and any other exposed body parts thoroughly with soap and water. Remove any contaminated clothing. Use of hand sanitizers (60% or more of alcohol) can be used when water is not readily available. It is always a good idea to wash your hands as soon as water is available.
  • PPE is provided by your employer. Know what is available, keep it handy and especially – USE it when necessary!
  • Use the proper disinfectant that is approved for use on the aircraft or ground facilities and follow the directions as most disinfectants require a dwell time on the surfaces to be effective prior to wiping off.

Your employer has probably provided bulletins and other alerts concerning the Ebola outbreak. The CDC (Center for Disease Control), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and WHO (World Health Organization) all have a lot of current info on the Ebola virus as well. Take a few moments to review:


Here are a couple of publications that you might find helpful:

Please continue to reach out to your District Ground or Flight Safety Committee or the JATSC if you have questions.

Have a safe and healthful day,