- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
September 11, 1995
Mr. John A. Redden
Director, Health and Safety
Marine Spill Response Corporation
1350 I Street NW.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Dear Mr. Redden:
This is in response to your letter dated May 3, requesting interpretation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used during marine oil spill emergency response operations. You stated in your letter that slips, trips, falls, and heat stress pose the greatest potential for injury and illness during these operations and requested that the PPE requirements of paragraphs (q)(3)(iii) and (q)(3)(iv) of OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard (29 CFR 1910.120) be modified or interpreted to minimize these hazards.
In your letter and subsequent telephone conversations, you emphasized that MSRC [Marine Spill Response Corporation] primarily responds to #6 fuel oil, crude oil, and jet fuel marine spills, and that airborne concentrations of hazardous chemicals resulting from these types of marine spills typically dissipate within 2 hours of a spill. You stated that both MSRC's experience and site surveys conducted during emergency response operations indicate that inhalation hazards at these spills no longer exist by the time your response team reaches the spill site. In addition, MSRC emergency response procedures prohibit response team personnel from entering a spill area until airborne concentrations of hazardous chemicals fall below the action level.
Given the minimal inhalation hazards and the potential for injuries or illnesses resulting from slips, trips, falls, and heat stress during marine oil spill response operations, you suggest that OSHA modify or provide interpretive guidance for the PPE requirements of paragraph (q)(3)(iii) of the HAZWOPER standard. As written, the paragraph requires that "[b]ased on the hazardous substances and/or conditions present, the individual in charge of the ICS [Incident Command System] shall ... assure that the personal protective equipment worn is appropriate for the hazards to be encountered." OSHA believes that this performance-based language already allows MSRC the flexibility to select the PPE necessary to protect MSRC employees from the hazards that exist during marine oil spill response activities. Under this paragraph, MSRC must evaluate the hazards (including slips, trips, falls, and heat stress) present during the response operation and must select PPE to protect against those existing hazards. If MSRC determines that inhalation hazards are not present, then using PPE to protect against inhalation hazards would be unnecessary.
In evaluating the need for PPE to protect against chemical hazards, however, MSRC must consider all potential chemical components present in the oil as well as the potential for both inhalation and dermal exposures. For instance, significant adverse health effects are associated with chronic, low-level airborne exposures to both hydrogen sulfide and benzene. In addition, some solvents in crude oil are skin irritants and/or potential carcinogens and may cause contact dermatitis or skin cancer through prolonged or chronic dermal absorption; exposure to the sun, which is common in your work, can accelerate these effects. OSHA's nonmandatory guidelines for conducting a work hazard assessment and selecting PPE, available in OSHA's revised personal protective equipment standards (29 CFR 1910, Subpart I, Appendix B), provide further information that may assist you in the selection of appropriate PPE. Please note that 29 CFR 1910.132(d) mandates the employer to perform a hazard assessment of the workplace to determine if the use of PPE is necessitated; select and mandate employee use of the necessary PPE; communicate selection of PPE decisions to employees; and select PPE that properly fits the employees.
Regarding the respiratory protection requirements of 1910.120(q)(3)(iv), OSHA's intent in requiring self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) where an inhalation hazard may exist is to protect employees from undetermined airborne levels of hazardous substances until the nature and level of potential airborne exposures have been evaluated. As discussed above, your letter indicates that MSRC responds primarily to marine spills of three specific grades of oil, and, through experience (including site surveys), has determined that inhalation hazards resulting from these spills no longer exist by the time the response team reaches the spill site. Your letter further explains that the use of SCBA under these circumstances unnecessarily contributes to the slips, trips, falls, and heat stress hazards associated with your operations. Therefore, you suggest that marine oil spill site survey personnel would be more appropriately protected if supplied air systems were made available for immediate use at the site and if real-time monitoring equipment were used on site to detect the presence of organic vapors, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and oxygen-deficient environments. Again, OSHA believes that the existing language of the HAZWOPER standard allows MSRC flexibility in protecting its employees from the hazards present in their work environment. In this case, paragraph (q)(3)(iv) requires the use of SCBA where an inhalation hazard or a potential inhalation hazard exists until the ICS determines through air monitoring that a decreased level of respiratory protection will not result in hazardous exposures. If MSRC has already determined through past experience and documented site surveys (air monitoring results) that inhalation hazards or potential inhalation hazards no longer exist by the time MSRC's response team reaches the site of a marine spill involving #6 fuel oil, crude oil, or jet fuel and if no other atypical circumstances exist that could increase potential airborne concentrations of hazardous chemicals, then the use of SCBA would not be required. If any unknown or uncharacterized chemicals or circumstances are involved in the spill, however, then the use of SCBA would be required until air monitoring results adequately characterized the inhalation hazards and indicated that reduced levels of protection were appropriate.
We hope that this response clarifies OSHA's PPE requirements during marine spill response operations. If you have additional questions, please contact OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance, MaryAnn Garrahan at (202) 693-2190.
John B. Miles, Jr.
Directorate of Compliance Programs
May 3, 1995
Mr. John Miles, Jr.
Director, Directorate of
Occupational Safety & Health
200 Construction Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Mr. Miles:
MSRC is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, created in August 1990 through the initiative of a number of the major oil and shipping companies operating in U.S. waters. Our mission is to provide a best effort response to clean up and/or mitigate major oil spills in certain U.S. offshore and tidal waters.
We recently met with Tom Seymour and Tom Galassi of OSHA to discuss various matters related to Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) requirements as applied to oil spill response in the marine environment. As a follow-up to that meeting we would appreciate your formal review and interpretation of certain OSHA requirements associated with PPE requirements as applied to oil spill response in the marine environment as follows.
There are a number of non-training related health and safety issues associated with marine oil spill response activities which should be distinguished from typical land-based hazardous waste site response activities under applicable HAZWOPER requirements. Generally, the largest risk associated with oil spill response activities in the marine environment are potential injuries associated with "slips, trips and falls" or heat stress associated with responses in warm climate areas. MSRC's experience has demonstrated that heat stress has been the cause of several heat related injuries to date. The risks associated with inhalation hazards are normally minimal because a site safety survey has demonstrated the absence of an explosive or toxic atmosphere and response activities in the marine environment usually occur after the oil has weathered. Experience has shown that air contamination risks have normally passed after two hours of crude oil weathering. Moreover, MSRC policy is that response activities will not be carried out when such inhalation hazards are above the action level because of the expected rapid volatilization of the highly volatile toxic aromatics.
Currently, under applicable HAZWOPER requirements for emergency response, the individual in charge of the Incident Command System shall, based on the hazardous substances and/or conditions present, assure that the PPE worn is appropriate for the hazards to be encountered. 29 C.F.R. 1910.120(q)(3)(iii).
This guidance does not adequately take into account response activities in the marine environment. In view of the common "slips, trips and falls" as well as sea sickness hazards associated with vessel and small boat operations at sea and the reduced inhalation hazards associated with an oil spills it is appropriate to modify or provide interpretive guidance addressing PPE requirements during appropriate circumstances to minimize potential accidents. In addition, there are critical heat stress issues associated with the wearing of certain types of PPE (i.e. tyvek suits) during oil spill response activities in the marine environment and adjoining shorelines when the weather/temperature is tropical, i.e., Gulf of Mexico, Southeast U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands.
In addition, in circumstances of emergency response involving an inhalation hazard or potential inhalation hazard personnel must wear positive self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) while engaged in the emergency response operations until it is determined through the use of air monitoring that a decreased level of respiratory protection will not result in hazardous exposures to employees. 29 C.F.R. 1910.120(q)(3)(iv).
This mandatory requirement for site survey personnel to initially wear supplied air equipment as applied in the context of oil spill response activities does not provide an added measure of safety in most circumstances and in fact could potentially lead to other accidents, i.e., having personnel wearing SCBA (excess weight) on small highly maneuverable small water craft posing a significant drowning risk from falling overboard.
It makes more practical sense and is more desirable for marine oil spill site survey personnel to have supplied air systems available for immediate use and ramp up if necessary rather than attempting to conduct a site survey with supplied air equipment actually being used while conducting the site survey. There is a much greater risk from injury on a small boat due to slips, trips and falls or heat stress than from inhalation hazards as long as the marine oil spill site survey is conducted in a safe manner following explicit, tested procedures. Specifically, MSRC conducts its site survey as described in Attachment 1. The depicted procedures have been developed to comply with the existing regulation. If OSHA concurs with MSRC, the attached procedures will be modified to reflect that supplied air will not be donned until such time as onboard continuous monitoring hand held instrumentation indicates that H2S or Benzene is present.
MSRC uses state-of-the-art MSA Passport multiple gas instruments for oxygen as a percentage, hydrogen sulfide in parts per million (PPM), organic vapors measured as a percentage of the lower flammable limit and carbon monoxide in PPM, plus the Photovac Snapshot, a hand held portable gas chromatograph instrument that measures benzene in PPM. MSRC response personnel and contract employees are required to wear PFD's, hard hats, steel toed rubber boots and neoprene gloves with at least one vinyl glove layer inside. During inclement weather or when sea states dictate, rain suits or nuclear splash suits are required. During cold weather operations, i.e., sea water temperature below 50 deg.F. or combined air-sea water temp. below 110 deg.F, Mustang work suits (floatation) are mandated by MSRC to prevent exposure injuries. MSRC has designed a decontamination station for shipboard use that allows for the cleaning and recycling of all outer gear except for such disposable items as tyvek, nuclear splash suits, etc. A compactor unit for compacting disposable PPE is a part of the decon unit.
We look forward to receiving your written response to this letter. More specifically, we request that you review the PPE requirements of 29 C.F.R. 1910.120(q)(3) in the context of marine oil spill response and this letter and provide explicit interpretation and guidance on the use of PPE and whether the site survey procedures used by MSRC are in compliance with the site survey requirements of 29 C.F.R. 1910.120(q)(3)(iv). If appropriate, we suggest that supplemental OSHA-wide guidelines be sent to your field offices delineating PPE requirements and site survey procedures for emergency response operations involving marine oil spills.
If you have any questions or desire to discuss any aspect of this matter, please feel free to contact me at 408-5799. Thank you for your assistance.
John A. Redden
Director, Health and Safety
A. Preparation for "Initial Site Assessment" [OSRV] Equipment Preparation 1. When the Industrial Hygienist (IH) arrives on board the OSRV: The term "OSRV" is used as a generic reference for all MSRC "Oil Spill Response Vessels" (i.e. Washington Responder, Oregon Responder, etc) a.) Contact the "On Water Branch Manager" or "Task Force Unit Supervisor" (typically the Section Leader) to notify him/her you are on board. Inquire as to the availability of the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), and determine the estimated time it will be available. Typically the Initial Site Assessment will be performed by a three person team in a RHIB or similar small fast boat capable of transporting at least three personnel and the equipment described in this document. (In this document, the term "RHIB" will be used to represent any such boat utilized for this purpose). b.) Request the IH equipment storage room be unlocked (typically the Sick Bay or similar controlled area); the Captain or First Mate have keys. 2. Immediately upon entering the IH equipment storage room, inventory all IH equipment (MSRC MIN# 10-SFSC-001). As a minimum, the following list of IH equipment should be on board. a. 1-Snapshot, portable GC by Photovac. b. 2-Passports, four gas meters (LEL, O2, H2S, CO) by MSA. c. 1-Drager pump with >/-1 boxes of detector tubes for benzene, range 0.1 ppm to 10 ppm. d. 12-Passive dosimeter kits for use on the RHIB and the OSRV during initial response. e. Calibration gases in three small cylinders: 1. benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (BTEX), 2. LEL, O2, CO, and 3.H2S f. Radio (Typically channel 2 for Safety; check Site Safety Plan). 3. Turn on all instruments, check battery charge levels and calibrate each instrument. The calibration procedures for each instrument are attached to this procedure and should be located in the respective instrument storage box. IMPORTANT: The Snapshot requires 10-15 minutes to warm up. As it is warming up the other instruments should be calibrated. 4. While the calibration run for the Snapshot is running (run time 10 min.), move three SCBAs or three-person airline respirator system with emergency egress cylinders. (In this document, the term ""SCBA" will be used to represent either system) from the storage room in the bow to the IH equipment storage room, sick bay or other convenient location. 5. Inspect the SCBAs to ensure all parts are in the case. Inspect: a. Face piece w/straps in good condition b. Full bottle of air c. Hoses, valves and O-rings in place d. Low air alarm functioning. This inspection does not replace the pre-use inspection by the user. It only serves as a pre-cautionary step to assure functioning equipment is supplied to the RHIB in an effort to avoid delays in spill characterization. 6. Replace the SCBAs in their carrying cases. 7. Place IH equipment into their respective cases for transportation to the RHIB. Do not turn off the Snapshot. Do not place it in its case. Because of the long warm up time the instrument should be left running. The terminals on the back of the instruments and the opening on the bottom of the instruments should be covered with duct tape (be sure that you don't cover any ports which require a continuous air flow). Transport the carrying case with a back up battery pack for the Snapshot on to the RHIB. 8. Personal Protective Equipment shall include: a. Type 5 Personal floatation device (PFD), this can be obtained from the storage room. In condition where hypothermia is a risk factor, Type 5 Worksuits ("Mustang Suits") will be worn. b. Neoprene steel-toe boots c. Saranax or Polycoated Tyvek suits e. SCBA f. 1/2 face air purifying respirator, w/combination organic vapor/acid gas and HEPA filters to allow you to downgrade your Level of Protection, when and if allowed to do so. g. Pair: Neoprene Outer gloves and PVC Inner (i.e., surgical) gloves h. Rain suit i. Warm clothes: long under wear, wool gloves, wool shirt, wind pants, etc. may be needed depending upon weather conditions. 9. Miscellaneous Equipment a. Small flashlight b. Hip pouch (fanny pack) c. Small pocket knife d. Write-in-rain paper e. Several pens, pencils f. "MSRC Oil Spill Safety and Health Field Reference Guide" 10. At this point, the instrument calibration must be complete and all the equipment should be ready to load on the RHIB. Contact the response commander and inquire about the arrival time of the RHIB. Also, request information about the spill such as, time of spill, size, type of product, availability of MSDSs and wind direction. If the "On Water Branch Manager" or "Task Force Unit Supervisor" informs you that the spill characterization has been delayed for more than two hours, then the IH instruments should be turned off. Note: Once the Snapshot is turned off, ensure that the carrier gas is also turned off. 11. If the Decon unit has not been set up, contact the "On Water Branch Manager" or "Task Force Unit Supervisor" and request that it be set up prior to or during the RHIB deployment. The Decon unit should be set up on the main deck adjacent to the entrance to the locker rooms. B. "Initial Site Assessment" Procedures [RHIB] 1. The SCBAs and IH equipment should be moved down to the lower deck for transfer on to the RHIB when it arrives. When the RHIB arrives, transfer all necessary equipment aboard. 2. Request that the RHIB operator to move toward the spill from the up wind side and stop at least one mile upwind from the spill. (Strategies may vary, see Section 5 of Algorythm; "Selection of Directional Approach Strategy"). 3. When reaching this location or prior, a conservative approach would have all RHIB personnel don Level B PPE (i.e., SCBA mask, Tyvek suit). Do not attach the SCBA low-pressure hose or go on supplied air at this time, breathe through the unattached hose. (Strategies may vary, see Section 6 & 7 of Algorythm; "Coordination and Communication" and "Action Levels") 4. Place passive dosimeters (H2S and VOC) on each person on the RHIB, including the IH. Place all direct reading instruments in the bow of the RHIB and ensure they are well secured, somewhat protected from water, and operating properly. Do not set the Snapshot in the bow of the RHIB, it is often easier to operate by using the shoulder strap. 5. Request that the RHIB operator move RHIB toward the spill at a steady rate of speed and stop at a predetermined set of coordinates, typically in a range approximately one half mile up wind from the spill, though the strategy for each spill will be unique. A GPS device onboard the RHIB will typically be used to determine coordinates; the OSRV is also capable of tracking the RHIB. The actual approach strategy will be determined by utilizing the "Initial Site Assessment Approach Algorithm" found in the "MSRC Oil Spill Safety and Health Field Reference Guide", or will be communicated directly by the Safety and Health Branch Manager in coordi-nation with the On Water Branch Manager and/or Task Force Unit Supervisor. 6. At the predetermined coordinates, the RHIB should be stopped, SCBA's donned with air supply turned on, and the first monitoring results shall be recorded. The Passport can be read directly for %LEL, O2, and H2S. The Snapshot reading will take 5-10 minutes. This time should be used to discuss how to approach the edge of the spill. The factors which must be considered and recorded when approaching the spill are: wind direction, wind speed, water currents, shallow water, obstructions, action levels of contaminants, etc. Applicable factors and findings should be recorded on the MSRC "Safety Monitoring" or "Safety Sampling" forms provided in the "MSRC Oil Spill Safety and Health Field Reference Guide". Bulk samples may also be collected. 7. Report all results to the Safety and Health Branch Manager at the Command Center: a. If the air monitoring results are above the action levels listed below then the RHIB should move an appropriate distance away from the spill (typically upwind) and the spill characterization should be terminated until the Safety and Health Branch Manager decides a second attempt should be made to characterize the spill. Note: All of the Action Levels described in this document apply only to the Initial Site Assessment Team. All other personnel will reference the action levels specified in the Site Safety Plan. The Site Assessment Team MUST utilize Level B PPE AND will immediately evacuate at any point in the site assessment if any of the following conditions are detected: TABLE ONE Contaminant Evacuation Action Levels Combustibles (% LEL) Less than or equal to 10 %LEL O2 Less than or equal to 25 % b. If air monitoring results are below the Evacuation Action Levels listed above, then the spill characterization can be continued using appropriate respiratory protection (see Tables 2 and 3). Diagram 1 displays and example approach to spill characterization. 8. If results are below the above action levels, then the spill characterization should continue as follows: Air monitoring and sample collection must be performed continuously as the RHIB moves from Location 1 to Location 2 on the upwind edge of the spill, near the source of the release. The crew should be on air as the RHIB moves up to the edge of the spill during this initial approach to the source, and to oil in the water. It should be remembered that the vapor "plume" will be influenced by the wind to a greater degree than the oilslick "trajectory", though in most instances the plume and trajectory should be closely aligned, with the plume core somewhat downwind of the trajectory core. It may be necessary to modify the "generic" approach strategy described here if certain conditions exist (darkness, total lack of wind, erratic winds, dangerous sea states, etc). Guidance during these conditions will be provided by the "Initial Site Assessment Approach Algorithm" found in the "MSRC Oil Spill Safety and Health Field Reference Guide", or will be communicated directly by the Safety and Health Branch Manager in coordination with the On Water Branch Manager and/or Task Force Unit Supervisor. The Site Assessment Team MUST utilize Level B PPE (OR will immediately evacuate) at any point in the site assessment if any of the following conditions are detected: TABLE TWO Contaminant Level B Action Levels O2 Greater than or equal to 19.5% Hydrogen Sulfide Less than or equal to 5 ppm Benzene Less than or equal to 50 ppm Any other toxic material* Less than or equal to Applicable PEL/STEL (*In instances where known or suspected to be associated with the spill) 9. Typically this approach would use 10-15 minutes of supplied air to initially reach the upwind edge of the spill, near the source of the release. The RHIB should then traverse (Location 2 to 3) the outside edge of the slick, remaining upwind and continuing to monitor contaminant levels, still utilizing Level B PPE. 10. In some instances it may be desirable to traverse the downwind plume area within, or even across, the slick itself (e.g., Diagram 2). Grid traversing across the slick may be necessary in instances when an "instantaneous" total product release (as opposed to an ongoing continuous release) occurs prior to arrival. Upon arriving at the scene of a prior instantaneous or discontinuous product release, it would not otherwise be possible to find the moving "center(s)" of the slick in order to determine peak air concentrations. Immediately report all air monitoring levels from the assumed worst-case location to the Safety and Health Branch Manager. 11. In those instances in which the RHIB does not traverse through the slick, the RHIB should move approximately 0.25 miles away from the spill and then begin to move downwind. Immediately report all air monitoring levels from the assumed worst-case (near source) location to the Safety and Health Branch Manager and inform him/her that the RHIB is moving to the downwind side. Air monitoring shall be continuous for %LEL and H2S. At a minimum, Benzene shall be monitored at the source of worst case location (in Diagram 1: assumed to be between Locations 1 and 2), and the leading edge of the spill (e.g., Location 4). 12. The crew may have the option of downgrading to Level C or Level D if both of the following conditions are met: a] no "standard action levels" have been exceeded (as defined in TABLE TWO, below), b] and conditions allow the crew to positively determine that they have completed evaluations of the "worst-case" areas of the spill: TABLE THREE [Assumes: O2>19.5%] Can downgrade to C if Can downgrade to D if Contaminant < these Action Levels: < these Action Levels Combustibles (%LEL) 10 %LEL 10 %LEL Hydrogen Sulfide 5 ppm 5 ppm Benzene 10 ppm 10 ppm Any other toxic Applicable PEL/STEL 10% of PEL/STEL material* (*In instances where known or suspected to be associated with the spill) 13. For example: in an assessment represented by Diagram 1, the RHIB crew might be go off air-supply from Locations 2 through 4, and then go on supplied air as they move from Location 4 to Location 5 (i.e., through the expected leading edge of the plume). If all air monitoring levels are < the action levels, then the use of supplied air would probably be discontinued, as described immediately above. The RHIB should then traverse the downwind edge of the spill and air testing should be continued. The diagram is a simplistic drawing and a more complex spill may require additional measurement points. Note: If at any point in time, the airborne levels are found to exceed any action levels, then the Safety and Health Branch Manager shall be notified. 14. When sufficient representative locations have been monitored (at least six), the spill characterization should be terminated. The RHIB shall report all air monitoring data to the Safety and Health Branch Manager and then return to the OSRV. Ensure all equipment is adequately secured before returning to the ship. C. Demobilization of "Initial Site Assessment" [OSRV] Upon returning to the OSRV, contact the Safety and Health Branch Manager and ask if he/she requires any additional information concerning the spill characterization. Ask the "On Water Branch Manager" or "Task Force Unit Supervisor" (typically the Section Leader) if you can be of assistance in the crew safety briefing. Assist in the distribution of the Site Safety Plan, as needed. The IH should then return all IH equipment to the sick bay and run a post calibration. Selected crew members working the boom deployment, Munson boat deployment and operations should be monitoring using passive dosimeter badges. Additional monitoring, air sampling, noise mensuration, or other industrial hygiene or safety assessment may be requested or specified by the Site Safety Plan and/or the Safety and Health Branch Manager.
(For Continuous Release of Product, Click Here)
(For Instantaneous or Intermittent Release of Product, Click Here)
(For Diagram Page 1, Click Here)
(For Diagram Page 2, Click Here)
(For Diagram Page 3, Click Here)
(For Diagram Page 4, Click Here)
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