AIHce: PPE Selection for Oil Responders Discussion

At a roundtable discussion on Day 1 of AIHce, leaders in the industry discussed proper PPE selection for those responding to oil spills.

On June 2 of AIHce, one technical session addressed PPE selection for those responding to oil spills. The presentation, titled, "Personal Protective Equipment Selection for Oil Spill Responders: A Look at API's Recommended Practice 98‰ featured four key stakeholders in the industry, who discussed oil spill hazards, overprescribing PPE, lessons learned from previous oil spills and the development and contents of API's recommended Practice 98 document.

First, John T. Husum, the director of HSSE at BP America, discussed the development and contents of API's RP 98 document. He addressed the seven general recommendations made in the document, which include: planning, dispersants, mechanical recovery, shoreline protection, remote sensing and identifying new technologies. He spoke of the challenges faced while creating the document (such as creating a clear voice within the same framework) as well as the importance of the various API 98 working group members, which included government, response organizations and industry members (such as Chevron and BP).

Next, Chris Muzzy, the corporate health and safety manager at MSRC, discussed hazards associated with oil spills. He touched on the various types of hazards (chemical, physical, environmental) as well as the importance of a preliminary site evaluation. He also touched on the various hazards associated with PPE, which include respirator trouble, heat stress and slips, trips and falls.

Following Muzzy, Todd Jordan, the director of OSHA‚s Health Response Team, addressed lessons the agency learned when implementing PPE programs during oil spill response operations. He spoke about a handful of case studies (including one in which a company‚s workers had way too much PPE on) and stressed the detriment of overprescribed PPE. He stated that perhaps the main cause of overprescribed PPE is lack of a competent Safety and Health supervisor with the ability to make decisions. He also discussed OSHA‚s PPE matrix.

Finally, Laura Weems, a Senior Industrial Hygienist and former member of the US Coast Guard, spoke about the effectiveness of job hazard analysis processes. She touched on the issues faced during the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and why things went wrong. She discussed specifically what failed, citing a misunderstanding of OSHA‚s matrix and taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the cleanup.

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