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NIOSH/OSHA Interim Guidance for Protecting Deepwater Horizon Response Workers and Volunteers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is working with an number of other government agencies to protect Gulf cleanup workers. OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to issue Interim Guidance for Protecting Deepwater Horizon Response Workers and Volunteers and recommend measures that should be taken to protect workers from a variety of different health hazards that these workers face. These are "interim" recommendations, which means that they will be updated as new information about potential health hazards is collected and assessed.

OSHA has over 146 professionals protecting workers throughout the Gulf Region, between 30 and 50 are assigned solely to protecting oil response clean up workers from health and safety hazards. In addition, OSHA has deployed a specialized Health Response Team to provide technical support for chemical exposure monitoring to OSHA response site personnel. OSHA staff has made over 2500 site visits, covering the vessels of opportunity, beach cleanup, staging areas, decontamination, distribution, and deployment sites. When OSHA finds problems on site visits or learns about them from workers, it brings them immediately to the attention of the employer and monitors the situation until they are corrected. OSHA raises its concerns through the Unified Command so they are addressed across the entire response area. OSHA is also looking to see that BP and its contractors are giving their workers, free of charge, appropriate personal protective equipment such as boots, gloves and other protective equipment as needed.

To determine whether or not workers are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, OSHA has brought in a team of industrial hygienists to conduct its own independent air monitoring both on shore and on the cleanup vessels. OSHA is also reviewing monitoring conducted by BP, EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). OSHA has published its independently gathered chemical sampling data on its website and is continually updating this site with new data. OSHA is also working with NIOSH to characterize worker exposures in each job category so that workers can receive necessary protections from air contaminants. At this time, OSHA has identified no exposures that exceed any applicable exposure limits.

Additionally, OSHA is working closely with a NIOSH team of medical officers and industrial hygienists who have been deployed to investigate specific cases of work-related illnesses among spill response workers, including the recent cluster of workers engaged in shore skimming and booming operations who sought medical attention. OSHA, NIOSH, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and other federal agencies are also working to establish a health surveillance program for workers involved in the event.

Most of the recommendations included in this document have been implemented. OSHA will be working with BP and the Unified Area Command to ensure that the remaining priority issues identified in this document are implemented as quickly as possible.

Read the full NIOSH/OSHA Interim Guidance for Protecting Deepwater Horizon Response Workers and Volunteers.