Fabrication flight undergoes OSHA inspection, still in operation

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  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors extensively reviewed the 403rd Wing’s Fabrication Flight operations Sept. 25.

This is the third time this year that the federal agency has inspected the flight, which is responsible for aircraft maintenance to include painting and sanding.

OSHA sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards and has the authority to issue citations for violation of workplace safety standards. Once again, OSHA did not halt the current fabrication flight operation nor issue any fines. Keesler Air Force Base is still awaiting release of the final OSHA report, which it expects to receive within the next 75 days.

During the previous inspections, the 81st Training Wing Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight, which monitors safety and health processes for the base, found low levels of contaminates present during some sanding and painting operations, which is common during these processes.  However, these levels fell below OSHA limits for unprotected personal exposure – known as permissible exposure limits. Even though there is no OSHA requirement to do so, Air Force leadership continues to go over and above OSHA standards by requiring personnel to wear Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, for all operations that might involve the presence of contaminants. Continuing to mandate PPE wear during fabrication operations protects Airmen and ensures the process remains in compliance with OSHA requirements even if future contamination levels were to exceed OSHA unprotected PELs.

“Some of our Airmen who work in the fabrication flight have some concerns, and we are committed to being transparent when it entails their safety,” said Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander. “We’ve had the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and OSHA experts look at our operations. If we were exposing Airmen to harm, they would shut down fabrication flight operations. As I said earlier this month after OSHA’s most recent visit before yesterday, our Airmen are our most treasured resource, and we are committed to providing them with a safe work environment. If I thought for one second we were putting Airmen at risk, I would shut the operation down immediately and personally padlock the door.”

The wing commander leads more than 1,600 Reserve and civilian professionals in the only Air Force Reserve C-130J unit equipped wing, which includes the only weather reconnaissance mission in the Department of Defense as well as tactical airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation and agile combat support. For more information, call the 403rd Wing Public Affairs Office at 228-377-2056.