NIOSH Releases Roster Summary Report on Deepwater Horizon Response Workers

The work from which the report was drawn marks the first time that NIOSH has developed a prospective, centralized roster of workers for a response event of this magnitude.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released the "Deepwater Horizon Roster Summary Report,” a new report describing the nature of the workforce that responded to onshore and offshore cleanup and containment activities following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010. The work from which the report was drawn marks the first time that NIOSH has developed a prospective, centralized roster of workers for a response event of this magnitude.

“The NIOSH Deepwater Horizon Response rostering effort entailed the largest single activation of NIOSH personnel to the field in the history of the Institute,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The effort involved close to 100 NIOSH employees who administered the survey and as a result, more than 55,000 response workers and volunteers were rostered.”

Through a survey, NIOSH obtained prospective information from workers at the time of training, at work locations, or through a secured online website, and developed the roster with the following objectives: (1) to create a record of those who participated in the Deepwater Horizon Response activities, (2) to collect information on the nature of their projected work assignments and the training they received, and (3) to create a mechanism for contacting them about possible work-related symptoms of illness or injury during and after the response, as needed. The roster also provides a model for enhancing and improving this type of reporting in the future.

Since the survey was prospective—asking for information generally before the responder being surveyed had started his or her response duties—the report does not cover conditions encountered by the individual once he or she had started work, such as exposure to heat, potential injury hazards, or oil. NIOSH’s health hazard evaluations conducted during the response provide information from that perspective. The health hazard evaluation reports are available at

Also, the roster and the new report do not address issues outside NIOSH’s authority, such as community and consumer health.

“As a lesson learned from previous emergency responses, we knew that rostering would be vital for having an authoritative record of individuals’ names, job duties, contact information, and other data that could be applied by occupational safety and health professionals to both immediate and long-term uses,” Howard said. “We appreciate the participation by the responders and the support of our federal partners during the response in enabling us to compile this record.”

The report gathers demographic information, including usual occupation, distribution of workers by responder category, anticipated job responsibilities, and expected use of personal protective equipment (PPE), among others. Several of the results are listed below:

  • Only a small proportion of the response workers were previously unemployed.
  • Rostered workers’ states of residence largely were along the Gulf Coast.
  • Forty-two percent of response workers had received some hazardous materials training.
  • Thirty-seven percent of workers reported that they smoke, compared with 17.9 percent in the general U.S. population.
  • Sixty-six percent of workers responded that their job tasks would potentially involve exposure to oil or oily substances.
  • Eighty-one percent of workers expected to use personal protective equipment, such as gloves, to protect their skin; 85 percent expected to use eye protection; and 32 percent expected to use respiratory protection.

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