Louisiana Officials Ask OSHA to Investigate Oil Spill Worker Conditions, Safety

The secretaries of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) sent a letter to OSHA Administrator David Michaels on June 4 asking the agency to conduct a full investigation of oil spill worker conditions and safety.

In their letter, Alan Levine, secretary of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and Peggy Hatch, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, wrote of “emerging threats” in response efforts for the Deepwater Horizon spill and noted increasing reported injuries and illnesses among cleanup workers hired by BP.

“We are told that BP is looking to bring some 3,000 more people to our coast to aid in the clean-up efforts,” they wrote. “Combined with those already engaged, we are increasingly concerned about the provisions being made to protect the health and safety of those who are exposed to the oil and other elements associated with the spill. Specifically, we want to ensure people involved in the clean-up are provided with training and protective equipment and supplies appropriate for the type of exposure they are sustaining.”

Levine and Hatch added that the Department of Health and Hospitals “is now engaged in an aggressive surveillance and monitoring system to catalog worker-related illnesses and exposure complaints. We also are receiving daily reports of other injuries and illnesses that have us concerned that proper protections are not being taken and protocols followed.”

Among their requests, Hatch and Levine asked OSHA to provide:

  • An official report detailing that review, method of investigation, findings and any citations issued or recommendations made.
  • Details of OSHA’s footprint in the area, including how many people are on site to monitor worker safety and plans for regular inspection and monitoring of worker safety.
  • A list of any worker complaints made directly to OSHA and the disposition of those complaints.
  • A comprehensive review of training protocols for workers that includes an investigation of how consistently and fully that training is done.
  • A strategy for providing regular reports outlining ongoing monitoring, complaints and citations.
  • Any information on monitoring, such as air monitoring, on vessels and other work sites as it pertains to worker safety.

“We are pleased OSHA is engaged in this issue, and we believe it is critical we work collaboratively with you as a partner in our mutual goal of ensuring the safety of these people who are working so hard,” they concluded.

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