In recent weeks we have had excellent discussion and collaboration with management on the topic of personal protective equipment (PPE). Many of you have reached out to us recently expressing confusion or concern regarding what needs to be worn when or that wearing PPE may come across as unprofessional or uninviting to our passengers.
We have prepared the following bulletin to address some of these issues, which have been discussed with the company. Should you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly, your Health and Safety Committees or Safety Management.
A new normal:
We mustn’t feel uncomfortable or ashamed of wearing our PPE. It may feel strange or silly and it can certainly make social interactions more difficult, but these are merely new challenges that we must and will overcome. As our new Vice-President of IFS, Jon Turner, stated in his most recent message “… Seeing your PPE gives our customers great comfort knowing that you are trained safety professionals”.
As PPE becomes more ubiquitous, it’s not so much a source of concern for the public as it is a welcome sight and comfort. So, wear both your uniform and PPE with care and pride, like the safety professionals that you have always been!
Cloth face coverings for crew:
As announced in the weekly IFS newsletter on June 12th, the company will be providing all crew with two branded cloth face coverings. These had been requested by many of our members and may be more comfortable for use while in areas off aircraft where physical distancing is easier to achieve, such as waits in the airport, layover hotel etc. You must sign for your pair at your local crew centre.
- Cloth face coverings do not meet the criteria for personal protective equipment (PPE) and therefore cannot be used anywhere onboard the aircraft.
- Cloth face coverings may retain moisture after prolonged use and need cleaning to prevent growth of bacteria. For your safety, as well as that of others around you, at the end of the day your mask should be washed with warm soapy water, thoroughly rinsed to remove any soap residue and hung to dry for use the next day.
Surgical masks and N95 respirators are mandatory onboard for all crew:
Since we are employees, and cloth face coverings do not meet the criteria for PPE, the company provides two options for use onboard the aircraft: surgical masks or N95 face respirators.
- As stated in Insert 293, all cabin crew MUST wear a surgical mask or N95 respirator at all times while onboard the aircraft – regardless of location. This means in the galley, crew rest, cabin, washrooms, and flight deck etc. The only exceptions are when eating, drinking, taking medication, for medical reasons as cleared by occupational health services or during any emergency procedures.
- A plastic faceguard does not provide the same protection as a mask and cannot be worn alone. If it were a mask, it would be called a mask!
Face coverings onboard for passengers:
As outlined in Insert 293, passengers are required to wear a face covering at all times onboard. Exceptions do exist, but they aren’t a free pass! In a time of rapidly changing policies, it’s more important than ever to know and apply the various sections of the FAM together.
For example, if a passenger expresses having trouble breathing, there is an exception allowing them to remove their mask. But remember breathing difficulty would be considered a medical emergency. You therefore need to follow procedures to request medical assistance and contact STAT MD.
- A general exemption exists for special needs or unforeseen circumstances at the crew’s discretion. This isn’t license for passengers to disobey Transport Canada mandated policy, but rather an acknowledgement that it is impossible to foresee every possible onboard situation and that you as crew need to be able to exercise critical judgement and adapt accordingly during exceptional circumstances.
- As a general rule, any medical reason for not wearing a mask must be cleared by MEDA prior to departure or Stat-MD once in-flight.
- As a general rule, a customer who doesn’t have a valid reason not to wear a mask and who doesn’t comply with crew instructions requires following procedures for disruptive unruly passengers FAM 3.6.1. Remember: the goal is to apply conflict management techniques and achieve compliance without escalating the situation.
- Appropriate paperwork needs to be filed for any situation where a customer becomes unable to wear their mask during flight (medical forms incl. clearance card / disruptive pax report etc.).
TIP! Cloth face coverings may make breathing more difficult over time as they get humid from the user’s breath. Offering the choice of a disposable surgical mask instead may be an appropriate solution.