AFGE Campaigns against Use of Potentially Harmful UV flashlights

Washington, D.C., April 15, 2010 Following an injury at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the American Federation of Government Employees is urging the Transportation Security Administration to either discontinue or safely secure the potentially harmful UV flashlights used to check identification documents at airports.

AFGE is asking TSA to inform Transportation Security Officers about the potential dangers of using the UV flashlights, which are being used by TSOs to check authenticity of IDs at many airports across the country. A Dallas TSO was injured last year when a passenger grabbed the flashlight and pointed it at the TSO's eyes. The TSO recently won a workers' compensation claim on appeal after TSA originally rejected it.

AFGE had asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate the issue following the TSO's injury. OSHA found that even short exposures of UV radiation can cause potential harm to the eyes. The agency wrote to TSA expressing its concerns and recommending that TSA provide personal protective equipment such as UV blocking goggles. TSA ignored OSHA's recommendation and went with a more convenient route suggested by an Army agency, which recommended that TSOs avoid looking into the light beam and avoid pointing at others. But AFGE argued that the flashlights are not secured and can be picked up by passengers and pointed at the TSOs or fellow passengers.

"There is potential for situations outside the "normal" and it needs to be addressed," said AFGE in a letter to TSA. "DFW TSA management is already aware of the problem and has chosen to do nothing to address it. No one else should have to be harmed by the flashlights."

AFGE asked that TSA find alternatives to the flashlights or minimize the risk by installing a gooseneck extension that would hold the flashlight in place. The union also asked that TSA provide employees with protective glasses and appropriate training. AFGE noted that the manufacturer's use information for the flashlights includes using UV protective glasses.