December 7, 2004
Views on Safety Factors by Air Operators, Pilots in Alaska are Reported from NIOSH-Funded Survey
Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
Alaska air commuter and air taxi operators and pilots, in a survey funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), generally agreed that better weather information and more training on regional air hazards would help prevent crashes in their high-hazard industry. NIOSH reported the results of the survey in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.
The survey was part of NIOSH's ongoing work in partnership with employers, employees, and other groups to reduce work-related fatalities and injuries in aviation and other Alaskan industries. Aviation crashes are a leading cause of occupational fatalities in Alaska, with Alaskan pilots having nearly 100 times the fatality rate of U.S. workers overall, and over 5 times the rate for all U.S. pilots.
When asked about ways to improve safety, operators were more in favor of operator financial incentives and better pre-employment hiring checks on pilots, compared with pilots' survey responses. Some 48 percent of pilots employed by large operators and 73 percent of pilots employed by small operators considered their jobs to be at least as safe as other jobs, despite the high occupational fatality rate in the industry.
The results of operator-pilot comparisons suggest that financial pressures on operators may influence their views on what measures would be effective in preventing crashes, and that Alaskan pilots underestimate their occupational fatality risk, NIOSH said. The study, "Alaska Air Carrier Operator and Pilot Safety Practices and Attitudes: A Statewide Survey," appears in the November 2004 issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 75, No. 11, pp. 984-991.
NIOSH sponsored the survey during the fall and winter of 2001/2002. The purpose was to provide information for a multi-agency initiative, in cooperation with industry, to reduce aviation-related injuries and fatalities and promote aviation safety in Alaska. The effort was intended to identify the perceptions, policies, and practices of air carrier operators and pilots that could affect the safety of flight operations, in order to develop interventions for reducing commuter and air taxi crashes. Questions addressed pilot and company demographics, pilot flight hours, Alaska flying experience, attitudes about safety, flying practices, and other salient risk factors. Surveys from 153 air taxi and public-use operators were received at a 79 percent response rate.
Future NIOSH research will focus on the practices and attitudes of Alaska commuter and air taxi operators and pilots as they relate to company fatal crash rates. More information on NIOSH research and partnerships to prevent job-related deaths and injuries in Alaskan aviation, including results of studies and recommendations for improving safety, can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh/injury/traumaaviation.html or by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).
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