Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels visited Louisiana with a team of experienced hazardous materials professionals leading an effort to ensure that oil spill cleanup workers receive necessary protections from the hazards of this work.
Cleanup workers can face potential hazards from oil byproducts, dispersants, detergents and degreasers. Drowning, heat illness and falls also pose hazards, as can encounters with insects, snakes and other wild species native to the impacted areas. OSHA is consulting with BP, as well as federal agency partners, to ensure that workers receive appropriate training and protective equipment.
“Oil spill cleanup workers are on the front lines attacking this disaster,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “It is our top priority to ensure that this is done as effectively, efficiently and safely as possible.”
In addition to meeting with OSHA staff and BP officials, Michaels is engaging with the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Louisiana state officials. OSHA staff have been on the ground in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to evaluate the training and protections that will be put into place for workers.
“Our job is to work proactively so that measures are taken to ensure the safety of cleanup workers,” said Michaels. “OSHA will monitor training, observe clean-up efforts and provide whatever assistance is needed to BP and its contractors.”
OSHA is distributing guides for cleanup workers and developing those guides in Vietnamese and Spanish. OSHA also has established a website to provide hazard awareness material for all involved in the cleanup activities. The website will be updated with new information as the situation warrants.
OSHA will apply the lessons it learned during its experience in the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez spill as well as post-Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts, according to an OSHA press release.