Second NIOSH Report on Oil Cleanup Pushes PPE

Twenty-six health hazard evaluation investigators have visit the gulf region. This second interim report evaluated cases treated at a Venice, La., infirmary; June 8-10 offshore oil burns; and a barge oil vacuuming operation involving 18 barges moored together off Grand Isle, La.

One exposure of concern -- peak exposures to carbon monoxide on boats used to ignite floating oil because of exhaust from gasoline-powered engines -- is identified in a second interim health hazard evaluation (HHE) report submitted July 12 by NIOSH based on work by 26 investigators in the Gulf of Mexico spill zone. BP asked for an HHE of Deepwater Horizon response workers on May 28.

This report found:

  • 71 percent of visits to the Venice, La., Branch Infirmary in June were for conditions requiring initial triage, first aid, and/or over-the-counter medications. No unrecognized or unreported occupational illness was identified, but NIOSH recommended that BP continue with its Heat Stress Management Plan, provide hand-washing stations, hygienic showers, and restroom facilities/portable toilets to limit the potential for disease transmission.
  • Surveyed workers on a June 8-10 oil burn mission were experiencing peak exposures to carbon monoxide exhaust from gasoline-powered engines. NIOSH recommended minimizing engine idling, using portable monitors to monitor CO, and regular engine maintenance. It recommended that workers with potential dermal exposure from handling oil-coated ropes, contacting surface oil from splashes, and performing maintenance on boom wear gloves of sufficient length to protect against such exposures, and workers igniting oil wear full coveralls and gloves.
  • A June 25 evaluation of a barge oil vacuuming operation -- 18 barges moored together in Coup Abel Pass off Grand Isle, La. -- produced recommendations that adequate fall protection be provided and used correctly on the barges, ear plugs and/or ear muffs be provided to workers near vacuum or pile-driving operations unless noise monitoring indicates noise exposures are below NIOSH recommended limits, and steps be taken to reduce workers' potential for musculoskeletal disorders from working in awkward positions.

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