Could working on or building an airplane make you sick?
Staying safe is the goal of every pilot, as well as every FBO owner and manufacturer. But being accident free doesn’t mean staying healthy, according to James W. Allen, an environmental health physician and an aviation medical examiner.
Known as Doc Allen, he’s written a book, “Working Healthy: A Manual on Health Techniques for Aviators, Maintainers and Aircraft Builders.”
The book delves into the health consequences of working on aircraft, from overexposure to chemicals, to conserving your hearing, to working in the heat.
Unlike most books for pilots, you won’t find chapters on hypoxia or acceptable medications, according to Allen. “Maintainers do not experience these effects,” he says. “What they do experience are work processes that result in skin disease, hearing loss, stiff and sore muscles, and exposure to the elements.”
The 234-page book begins with a case study from 1914, when workers at a German airplane factory died mysteriously. Other case studies follow, including true accounts of maintainers who lost their ability to walk following the use of solvents, to a fueler who died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The book is broken up into sections such as “Learning from Experience,” “Recognizing Environmental Exposures in the Workplace,” and “Your Commitment to Working Healthy, Always,” which makes it easy to go to one’s main area of interest. The case studies are interesting to read, and each is followed up with a section titled “Lessons Learned,” which tells readers how to avoid that specific problem.
The book is also full of tips, such as the correct way to insert ear plugs, the best way to handle fuel and how to protect yourself at the scene of an accident.
Plenty of illustrations, graphs and charts are included, as well as references at the end of each chapter for further information.
The book grew out of Allen’s work with professional aircraft mechanics in performing maintenance on his aircraft, a Piper Cherokee 235. This first-hand experience, plus his medical practice with aviation workers, stimulated his research into the medical effects arising from work in aviation maintenance.
Allen, who served in the Navy as an environmental health physician at shipyards and air rework facilities, also has worked with the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He also is a flight instructor who taught his daughter to fly. She’s now an airline pilot.
His new book, published by Brundage Publishing, sells for $34.95.