KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Recent 81st Training Wing Bioenvironmental Engineering 2019 reports determined that the 403rd Wing’s Fabrication Flight, responsible for aircraft maintenance to include painting and sanding, complies with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.
OSHA inspectors have been on site and have not shut the operation down, nor placed any restrictions on current fabrication flight processes. Keesler Air Force Base is still awaiting release of the final OSHA report. The wing expects release of the report within the next 75 days.
Although low levels of contaminates were found to be present during some sanding and painting operations, these levels fell below OSHA limits for unprotected personal exposure – known as permissible exposure limits. Despite recent contamination levels falling below OSHA PELs, Air Force leadership continues to go over and above OSHA standards and enforce the historical requirement for personnel to wear Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, for all operations that might result in contaminates despite no OSHA requirement to do so. Continuing to mandate PPE wear during fabrication operations would both protect Airmen and ensure the process remained in compliance with OSHA requirements even if future contamination levels were to exceed OSHA unprotected PELs.
“We are committed to being transparent when it entails the safety of our Airmen,” said Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander. “That is why I directed a stand down day and brought in occupational safety and bioenvironmental experts to address all questions and concerns of the fabrication flight Airmen. 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.