Keeping Workers Safe During Oil Spill Response and Cleanup Operations
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The information and recommendations in this fact sheet may change
as this oil response and cleanup work continues.
This fact sheet will be revised as needed, so make sure you have the latest version.
August 23, 2010



On Applying Sorbents To Soak Up Oil (On Shore)
 
Using Sorbents to Soak Up Oil
Applying Sorbents
 
What Is This Job?

Workers lay down sorbent materials to soak up oil.

What Dangers Has OSHA Found For This Task?

OSHA has closely watched workers doing oil spill work and has run many tests to see if there are harmful substances in the air. The major risks that OSHA has found for this job are:
  • Heat stress is a very serious risk for workers in the Gulf. It can cause a lot of different problems, from just feeling dizzy or sick to your stomach to fainting and death.
    Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It causes confusion and you may have seizures (fits), pass out, or even die - Call for medical help right away and begin cooling the person (move them to the shade or air conditioning, douse with cool water, and fan them) while waiting!
    Heat stress can give you a headache and make you dizzy and very tired. You may pass out, feel sick to your stomach, throw up, and have muscle cramps. Get into the shade and drink water right away! Notify a supervisor and have someone stay with you/coworker because this could become heat stroke
  • Back injuries, joint and muscle problems from bending, lifting, and handling sorbent and other heavy objects
  • Weathered oil can cause rashes on bare skin
Other hazards to be aware of:
  • Sunburn and sun poisoning
  • Drowning when working in or over water
  • Cuts, scrapes, and skin punctures from sharp objects or tools
  • Bites and stings from bugs, flies and bees can cause hives, breathing problems, allergic reactions, skin sores or diseases such as West Nile Virus
  • Bites from snakes, alligators, or other animals can cause serious injury or a severe reaction to the venom
What Must My Employer Do To Protect Me?

Employers must provide their workers with a safe workplace. You should report any unsafe working conditions, injuries, or illnesses to your supervisor or safety coordinator right away. For the ongoing oil response and cleanup operations, your employer must have a site safety plan for where you work and share it with you. The plan must include:
  1. The training you need to safely do this task.
  2. The work practices you need to use to avoid getting hurt or sick.
  3. The protective clothing and equipment you need when doing this job.
  4. How to report any health and safety hazards, illnesses and injuries.
Your employer must provide you the safety clothing and equipment you need to do your job safely and replace it if it wears out.

What Training Do I Need To Do This Job Safely?

Workers doing this task must take a four-hour class on shoreline spilled oil response (Module 3). Supervisors must have additional hazardous waste operations training.

What Work Practices Do I Need To Use?
  • Follow the work-and-rest schedule for your work site based on the weather and the time of day [for example, 20 minutes of work and then 40 minutes of rest (in shade, if possible) each hour].
  • Drink water often throughout the day.
  • Always wear your protective clothing and equipment properly and ask for new equipment if it is worn out and no longer protects you.
  • Decontaminate and remove your protective clothing before breaks and at the end of your work shift.
  • Put used protective clothing and other equipment in the proper place.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET.
  • Apply sunscreen often to exposed skin.
  • Use lifting equipment and get others to help you when moving heavy objects.
  • Don't put your hands in holes or under objects until you check for snakes, insects, or other animals.
  • Don't use broken or damaged tools. Turn them into your supervisor so no one else uses them.
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean water before eating, drinking, smoking, using a toilet, or handling a phone or other personal items.
What Safety Clothing and Equipment Must My Employer Provide (Free of Cost)?
 
If you are doing this job, then you need:
Sun Hat and Sun Screen Sun hat and sun screen Protect you from sunburn and help prevent heat-related illness.
Safety Glasses Safety glasses Protect your eyes from flying objects. Safety sunglasses block harmful UV rays from the sun.
Abrasion Resistant Work Gloves Abrasion-resistant work gloves Gloves made of leather or another material to protect against cuts and scrapes.

Steel Toed Rubber Boots Rubber boots Keep oil or other liquids from touching your skin or shoes.

You may also need the following equipment if your specific job or work site requires them. Your supervisor will tell you if you need this equipment.
Barrier Suit for Solids and Breathable Barrier Suit for Solids and Light Splash Breathable barrier suit for solids and

Breathable barrier suit for solids and light splash
Tight-knit, coated clothing that keeps dirt, grease, grime and light chemical splashes off skin and clothing.

Only required if your supervisor tells you it is necessary.
Hard Hat Hard Hat Prevents injuries from falling objects or bumping your head.

Only required when there are overhead or other objects on which you might bump your head.
Safety GooglesSafety goggles Cover your eyes and nearby skin and protect against dust, splashes, impact and flying objects.

Required for picking up snare boom only (not putting it down).
Steel Toed Protective Shoes/Boots Steel-toed protective shoes/boots Protect your feet from being crushed or cut by sharp objects.

Required if your supervisor tells you that work site conditions make them necessary.
Snake Boots Snake boots Protect your feet and legs from snake bites.

May be required depending on the risk of snake bites.
Rubber Boot Covers Boot covers Boot covers, also called "chicken boots," keep oil or other liquids from touching your skin or shoes.

Required if steel-toed boots are required.
Barrier Apron/Sleeves and/or Pants Barrier apron/sleeves and/or pants Tight-knit, coated clothing that that protects specific areas of your body from light splashes, dirt, or cuts.

Only required if your supervisor tells you they are necessary.
Hi-Visibility Garment Hi-visibility garment

Clothing with bright fluorescent colors and reflective stripes to make you more visible.

Only required when working around heavy equipment and utility terrain vehicles.

PFD Personal flotation device (PFD) Protects you from drowning.

Only required when working on docks, or vessels, or if entering the water or surf.

Do I Need To Wear A Respirator?

OSHA and NIOSH sampling data and illness data, as well as extensive reviews by professionals, indicate that a respirator is not needed for this operation. Wearing a respirator can put a strain on your body and increase your chances of having heat-related problems. Before you can wear a respirator, a medical professional must check to make sure that you are healthy enough to use it and you must be trained on how to use it.


How Can OSHA Help Me if My Employer Puts Me at Risk or Does Not Provide Me With the Equipment and Training I Need?

All workers involved in the oil spill response and cleanup have the right to a safe workplace just as they would in any other job. Contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) if you think your job is unsafe, if you have questions about safety and health or if you have symptoms and want to report them. OSHA keeps your information confidential. You may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect your workplace if you believe that your employer is not following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards.

OSHA Protection From Discrimination If You Raise Safety And Health Concerns


You may also file a complaint if you believe you were fired or in any way retaliated against for raising safety concerns to an employer or for participating in safety and health activities. OSHA protects workers who complain to their employers, OSHA or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions in the workplace or environmental problems. You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, have your hours reduced, be fired, or punished in any other way because you used any right afforded to you under the OSHA Act.

If you have been punished or discriminated against for using your rights, you must file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged reprisal for most complaints. No form is required, but you must send a letter or call your local Area Office to report the discrimination (within 30 days of the alleged discrimination). You can also call the 1-800 321-0SHA (6742) and they will connect you to your area office.


This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies or standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. The voice phone is (202) 693-1999; teletypewriter (TTY) number: (877) 889-5627.