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Safety and Training of Oil Spill Response Workers and Volunteers

Exposure to Hazards

  • Chemical exposures may include chemical dispersants, weathered crude oil, benzene and other volatile organic compounds, oil mist, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and diesel fumes.;
  • Physical hazards may include ergonomic hazards, excessive noise levels, sun exposure and heat stress. Injuries may occur due to slips, trips, and falls on slippery or uneven walking and working surfaces.
  • Other safety hazards are associated with the use of tools, equipment, machinery, and vehicles.
  • Biological hazards include possible exposure to biting or venomous insects or other animals.
  • Psychological hazards may include witnessing traumatic injuries or death, inability to help affected wildlife, and fatigue.
  • Fatigue may result from working in a fast-paced environment, working extended shifts, and doing heavy labor or demanding cognitive tasks such as problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Employers should train oil spill response workers about their potential hazards and safe work practices to prevent and control these hazards.
Clean-up crews collect oily waste in Grand Isle, La., May 31, 2010. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden.

Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing

All workers should be provided with the appropriate tools, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and protective clothing needed to perform their job tasks. Workers should be trained in the appropriate care and use of this equipment. PPE should be selected based on identification of the hazards, protective qualities (such as oil resistance) and suitability for the tasks performed.

Health and Injury Surveillance

An occupational health and injury surveillance system should be put in place as soon as possible. The prompt reporting of injuries and illnesses should be emphasized.

NIOSH Ongoing Health Hazard Evaluation

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting a health hazard evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response workers at the request of BP. The request asked NIOSH to evaluate potential exposures and health effects among response workers.
More information about the health hazard evaluation 

NIOSH Report of BP Illness and Injury Data

This report by the NIOSH is designed to provide a basic overview of illness and injuries reported by responders involved in the Deepwater Horizon response. It will be updated on a regular basis as new data becomes available. The data utilized to produce this report was provided to NIOSH by BP safety officials, who are sharing their Health and Safety incidents database with CDC/NIOSH. Read the latest report


Mental Health Resources

Training Resources

Prior Oil Spills

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report on the Exxon/Valdez Alaska Oil Spill (PDF - 402 KB) (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
NIOSH conducted an industrial hygiene assessment of potential occupational exposures during tasks performed by Valdez oil spill response workers resulting in these general safety, helicopter safety, and occupational injury surveillance system recommendations.