An aviation medicine practitioner, Dr Kayode Akinde, has advocated better occupational health protection for airline cabin crew in the country while lamenting the overconcentration of aeromedical care on pilots and air traffic controllers globally.
He made this call on Tuesday, November 7 at the pre-conference workshop of the 2017 Conference/Annual General Meeting of the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria (SOEHPON) currently ongoing at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Akinde noted that while pilots and air traffic controllers constitute key worker groups with direct bearing on aviation safety, cabin crew and other workers in the industry were enablers who deserved better medical attention than is presently being given them in the global aviation industry.
Describing the cabin crew as having a “glamorous but very, very difficult” job, Akinde said it was sad that they were being overlooked in the provision of medical care while the aeromedical division of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is focused on pilots and air traffic controllers, like its counterparts all over the world.
He said, “Everybody likes it (cabin crew’s job). It’s glamorous but it’s also a very, very difficult work.
“Unfortunately, these guys are the ones that are overlooked (in aeromedical care), sadly.”
Akinde enumerated the job-related hazards faced by the airline cabin crew to include accidental injuries, fatigue, muscoskeletal disorders, infections, and risk of alcohol abuse as a result of continuous exposure to alcoholic drinks, among others.
The Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health alumnus disclosed that the worrisome situation has persisted because the global aviation regulatory bodies, International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), has left individual airlines to decide the handling of the cabin crews’ medicals instead of creating a standard as applicable for pilots and air traffic controllers.
“Usually, it is the individual airlines that decide what to do. A lot of conferences…have said that ICAO and IATA have to decide to have a standard because these guys (cabin crew) are also important.
“They are very important even though they have nothing to do with aeromedical safety as regards a plane crash or in-flight issues.
“But if there is an emergency, it is the cabin crew that will direct the evacuation. Therefore, it is very important that you take them of them.
“More so, they are the face of the airline. If you see the cabin crew of an airline in Nigeria, you cannot compare them to that of Emirates or Air France. That alone is a marketing tool.
“That is why one of the problems the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) has with some of the Emirates people (is that) why are these people wearing high heels? It’s not good for them, but because they want to be glamorous…
“I am sure if you go to the airport and see the way they look, some of the things they have to put on isn’t really good for them to do the job: the aircraft environment can be really cold but they still have to dress in a particular way, which doesn’t really suit them,” he stressed.
“So we should try to prevent the risk to these other guys. They also work in the aviation industry; they are also very important. Not just the pilots. Unfortunately, very little care for,” he stated.
In a chat with Safety Record Newspaper, SOEHPON Chairman, Dr Okon Akiba disclosed that the annual conference was organised to update members’ knowledge and keep them abreast of modern trends in line with international best practice in the profession.
He added that the conference theme, “Occupational Health For All,” was strategically chosen to bring on board non-trained occupational health physicians attending to workers.
He said, “There are so many non-occupational health doctors who are attending to workers, and because they do not have the knowledge and skills about occupational health, they miss (some important things) in those patients.
“Some of the issues we have is because some of the doctors that attended to those patients didn’t look for certain things…
“We wanted most of them to be here so that we can train them because we know that they have cause to attend to workers.
“Although we know that they haven’t got formal training in occupational health, but if they have this kind of update, they would be better off than they are.”