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Anthrax at Fed-Ex?

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Anthrax at Fed-Ex?

Old 3rd Nov 2001, 12:08
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Question Anthrax at Fed-Ex?


FEDEX PILOTS ASSOCIATION Raises Concerns Over Mail Transport

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The treatment of 32 FedEx employees for suspected anthrax exposure prompted the FEDEX PILOTS ASSOCIATION to voice serious concerns about the handling of mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Exposure and deaths related to anthrax in the U.S. mail continue to surface nationwide. Since August 27, FedEx has transported more than 3 million pounds of the U.S. Postal Service's Express, Priority and First Class mail a day. The pilots' association identified four main areas of FedEx operations that are open to risk: the aircraft, the personnel operating and maintaining the aircraft, the containers holding USPS Express Mail, and the ramp personnel involved in Express Mail operations.

Ramp personnel frequently come into direct contact with the mail as they handle and resort bags of mail in the cargo containers in which USPS materials are shipped. Aircrews are potentially exposed to anthrax in the pressurized, isolated atmosphere of the aircraft. Anthrax poses a serious threat to aircrew members and other company passengers on the aircraft, as the inhaled form of anthrax is not always responsive to antibiotic treatment. Of the recently reported anthrax cases, all four deaths were attributed to inhalation anthrax.

Due to the serious risk to both aircrews and ramp personnel, the FEDEX PILOTS ASSOCIATION has recommended to Federal Express Corporation management that the following procedures be implemented immediately:

* Test all aircraft filtration systems and cockpits once every 24 hours for anthrax spores. Positive test results should trigger immediate CDC action and testing of aircrews and other related personnel who may have been exposed;

* Create tracking mechanisms, protocols, and procedures for affected personnel, equipment, and aircraft that are exposed to actual or suspected contamination, in both domestic and international locations. These procedures must include immediate notification procedures and should include access to immediate treatment and other medical resources;

* Bag and seal all Express Mail and USPS bags, prior to containerizing, in thick, clear Mylar(R) bags;

* Seal cargo containers as much as possible to minimize the air circulating around any possibly contaminated packages that could introduce pathogens into the cockpit through the air conditioning/pressurization system;

* Make anthrax vaccinations available to FedEx personnel on a voluntary basis.

Furthermore, with postal authorities moving quickly to irradiate mail deliveries, FedEx should acquire technologies to deal with this new threat to their operations as soon as possible, and they should ensure that every precaution is being taken to protect personnel, assets, and services.

"We wanted to offer some solutions to management that could be implemented quickly, and it appears that irradiation is something that the U.S. Postal Service and other businesses believe to be a possible permanent solution. We are concerned that present procedures offer little protection to those employees involved in the transportation of postal service materials,'' said FPA President Capt. David Webb. "The postal containers are packed at postal facilities, not by FedEx personnel, so those containers present a very real and potentially fatal risk.''

FPA hopes to work with FedEx management in developing and quickly implementing procedures that will address these risks and minimize the dangers to which the FedEx workforce is subjected. "We must act swiftly and prudently to ensure the safety of all FedEx employees,'' Capt. Webb stated. "Developing protocols and contingency plans to address the anthrax exposure that has occurred in other sectors should signal our company to take immediate steps to cope with our employees' exposure, now that they have acknowledged that we have possible anthrax exposures.''

Certified in October 1996 as the collective bargaining agent for the pilots of Federal Express Corporation, the FEDEX PILOTS ASSOCIATION seeks to ensure a safe, equitable, and secure work environment for all pilots employed by Federal Express.
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