Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gulf Clean Up Workers Health Threatened

Oil Spill Workers on Dourchon Beach, Louisiana
The Center is interested in putting people to work in the Gulf to assist in cleaning the beaches and marshes, but we want to assure that anyone working with us will be protected from exposures that could threaten their health.

The Obama administration is concerned about potential health and safety problems posed by the oil spill, particularly health threats to oil clean up workers. The Labor Department has experessed concerns about its inability to force BP to respond to them. An assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health raised concerns the day before seven oil spill workers on boats off the coast of Louisiana were hospitalized after they experienced nausea, dizziness and headaches. A memo states:
"The organizational systems that BP currently has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in cleanup operations...these are not isolated problems. They appear to be indicative of a general systemic failure on BP's part, to ensure the safety and health of those responding to this disaster. BP has also not been forthcoming with basic, but critical, safety and health information on injuries and exposures."
The Department of Labor is also coming under fire for not being aggressive enough in monitoring BP or the contractors who are providing oil spill cleanup training.

The OSHA memo raised several significant concerns, including:
- Lack of sufficient control over work sites. May 20: the agency found more than 800 workers at one of the Biloxi, Miss., sites without the required training.
- Difficulty in obtaining adequate and timely data from BP on injuries and illness, chemical sampling, monitoring data and training materials.
- Concerns that BP's manager of workplace safety "does not appear to operate with the full support of the company, nor does he seem to have the authority necessary for the job which he has been tasked."
The Labor Department memo suggest that: BP place someone in this position who has the authority and the ability to make changes expediently in order to address the safety and health of cleanup workers."

President Obama Inpsect Oil Balls
It is being reported that most workers are getting only the minimum hazardous-material training required, which is four hours. That's because OSHA has chosen to apply training standards that date back to soon after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. While experts agree that the level of exposure is lower than federal safety standards, they say that what little data that has been released provides more questions than answers. (, McClatchy Newspapers, 5/28/10)

No comments: