Agencies offer resources for safe oil cleanup

May 6, 2010

As crews work to clean up the oil slick spreading in the Gulf of Mexico, NIOSH and OSHA are advising workers on how to protect themselves.

An oil rig leased by BP and located about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana exploded April 20, resulting in thousands of gallons of oil pouring into the water each day; 11 workers from the rig are missing and presumed dead as of deadline.

Cleanup workers potentially can be exposed to oil byproducts, dispersants, detergents and degreasers, according to OSHA. Other hazards include drowning, heat illnesses and animal encounters. In addition to publishing a Web page on the hazards, OSHA administrator David Michaels traveled to Louisiana on May 2 with hazardous materials experts to ensure spill cleanup workers receive necessary protection from these hazards.

NIOSH also launched a Web page with similar resources on protecting workers' health and safety in the cleanup efforts, and included a report (.pdf file) on occupational exposures during the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska 20 years ago.