Congressmen say safety of oil cleanup workers at risk

Two congressmen have called on OSHA to ensure the protection of workers and proper enforcement of safety and health laws during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup.

Reps. James Oberstar (D-MN) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) wrote (.pdf file) to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis on June 3 expressing their concerns for workers in light of reports that people have fallen ill after exposure to oil, oil dispersants or a combination of the two. The two congressmen warned that not providing proper personal protective equipment -- including respirators -- could lead to a scenario similar to what was seen after the Sept. 11 attack, in which there were widespread reports of responders becoming ill.

Although OSHA administrator David Michaels has voiced concerns (.pdf file) about BP's ability to ensure the safety of cleanup workers, a June 8 update from his agency reported finding "no exposures to toxic chemicals" that would necessitate cleanup workers wearing respirators. Other PPE, such as boots and gloves, is required (.pdf file).

OSHA is monitoring air conditions at various cleanup sites, and the agency said it would reassess its recommendations should conditions change.

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