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Airport Public Health Preparedness and Response: Legal Rights, Powers, and Duties (2018)

Chapter: III. Legal Authorities for Roles and Responsibilities

« Previous: II. Legal Considerations for Communicable Disease Response Planning
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Suggested Citation:"III. Legal Authorities for Roles and Responsibilities." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Airport Public Health Preparedness and Response: Legal Rights, Powers, and Duties. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25227.
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Page 14

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14 airport personnel in close proximity to passengers suspected of having avian flu infection. Employers supply respirators to their airport personnel as nec- essary, but the respirators supplied must meet OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standards. Respira- tors undergo a complete respiratory protection pro- gram screening, as described in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.13. The screening includes initial and annual training, fit testing, and user seal checks. These regular checks ensure that appropriate respirators will be used in the case of a possible infection. OSHA requires airport personnel to wear disposable gloves when handling bodily fluids and to exercise thor- ough hygiene for cleaning their hands. Federal regulations also require a description of operating procedures, facilities and equipment, responsibility assignments, and any other informa- tion needed by personnel concerned with operating the airport be included in the airport certification manual (submitted for FAA approval). Relevant components of the manual include descriptions of equipment, personnel and emergency personnel training, emergency plan details, and procedures to be followed in handling hazardous materials.110 III. LEGAL AUTHORITIES FOR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES A. Airport Authority Responsibilities National Aviation Preparedness Plan In 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the preparedness of the U.S. aviation system to respond to communicable dis- eases. It found that all 14 large-hub airports and 3 airlines reviewed had plans for responding to a com- municable disease threat; a comprehensive national aviation preparedness plan targeted at preventing and containing the spread of diseases was lacking. Currently, no airports or airlines are required to have individual communicable disease preparedness plans.111 Establishing a national plan would provide the impetus to bring the public health and aviation sectors together to effectively develop a communica- ble response, which would reduce the risk of unnec- essary disruptions to the national aviation system. Issues have arisen, however, in identifying which federal agency would take the lead in spearheading the development of a plan between the aviation industry and public health sectors.112 As a signatory to the Chicago Convention, an international aviation treaty, the United States, as a member state, is obli- gated to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks. The GAO recommended that the U.S. Department of Transpor- tation (DOT), in collaboration with stakeholders such as HHS, develop a national aviation prepared- ness plan for communicable diseases. Duties to Employees Airports should appropriately train employees, provide them with necessary PPE, and assure a san- itary workplace if the employees are to administer non-invasive procedures to screen passengers.113 Air- port employees who become infected with a commu- nicable disease while attending to a contagious passenger may have a workers’ compensation claim provided it is in the course and scope of their employ- ment that the disease exposure occurs. The workers’ compensation system provides benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries.114 Each state’s laws determine what qualifies as a compensable injury but generally require that the work itself creates a unique hazard of contracting the disease.115 Thus, an employee may have to show that the likelihood of contracting a particular illness was heightened because of the peculiar nature of the job.116 B. Communications Internal communication—sometimes termed operational communication—refers to the rapid shar- ing of information among stakeholders (e.g., airlines, federal agencies, air traffic control, security, and air- port retailers) operating within the airport environ- ment.117 Internal communication is especially crucial to secure the safety of travelers, personnel, and mem- bers of the public immediately at risk of infection at the airport, with their safety taking priority over the general public’s need for information during the early 110 14 C.F.R. § 139 (2017). 111 See generally U.S. Gov’t aCCountability oFF., GAO-16- 127, air travel anD CommuniCable Disease: ComPrehensive FeDeral Plan neeDeD For u.s. aviation system’s PrePareDness (2015), https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/674224.pdf. 112 Id. 113 Id. 114 29 U.S.C. § 651 (2017). 115 Id. 116 Id. 117 worlD health orG., international health reGulations: a GuiDe For PubliC health emerGenCy ContinGenCy PlanninG at DesiGnateD Points oF entry (2005) [hereinafter worlD health orG., Phe ContinGenCy PlanninG], http://www.wpro.who.int/emerging_diseases/ documents/PHECP_Guide_web.pdf?ua=1; airPorts CounCil international et al., airPort PrePareDness GuiDelines For outbreaks oF CommuniCable Disease 2-3 (2009). Internal stakeholders include: airlines, handling agents, air traffic management, local hospital(s), airport medical service providers, emergency medical services, police, customs, immigration, security, airport retailers, information/customer relations services, and other stakeholders as necessary.

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TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Legal Research Digest 34: Airport Public Health Preparedness and Response: Legal Rights, Powers, and Duties addresses the legal issues concerning the measures to detect communicable diseases, regulations to control communicable diseases, methods for decontamination, emergency legal preparedness, privacy, and potential sources of liability. This digest provides a checklist that airport attorneys and other staff can use to help prepare, plan, and coordinate with their partners in response to a threat of a communicable disease.

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