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Release Number: 10-1034-DAL
July 22, 2010
Contact: Jason Surbey
Phone: 202-693-4668

US Department of Labor's OSHA explains requirements for protective clothing during oil spill beach cleanup operations

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels, today issued the following statement:

"If someone is at a beach that has been impacted by the oil spill, they may see workers wearing protective clothing to prevent their skin from coming into contact with weathered oil. Skin contact with weathered oil can cause dermatitis.

"Workers who are on the beach, but are not going to come in direct contact with weathered oil, are not required to wear protective clothing. Any individual not wearing protective clothing should avoid coming in contact with the weathered oil.

"For workers involved in beach cleanup operations where solid tar balls or tar patties are being removed using shovels, rakes, buckets, etc., OSHA only recommends the use of gloves, boots and long pants, but not coveralls. In these cases, when such coveralls are not necessary, OSHA does not recommend using disposable coveralls because of concerns for heat stress.

"However, in other operations such as removal of oiled debris, cutting oiled vegetation, and mopping up liquid oil mousse , using chemical protective coveralls is warranted. These operations have a greater risk of skin contact with weathered oil; therefore, a greater level of protective clothing is necessary.

"OSHA has received reports that some workers have requested to wear the disposable coveralls not to protect their skin, but to protect their clothes from getting dirty. Individuals on beaches may not be able to differentiate between workers wearing coveralls to prevent clothes from getting dirty, such as cotton coveralls, and chemical protective clothing, such as Tychem or Tyvek, because they may look the same."

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Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

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