Louisiana Officials Concerned About Health of BP Clean-Up Workers

June 7, 2010

Environmental and health officials in Louisiana are requesting that federal safety officials take steps to protect the health of those who are helping with the clean-up of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alan Levine, Health and Hospitals Secretary, and Peggy Hatch, Environmental Quality Secretary, say that daily reports of illness and injuries have them concerned that clean-up workers aren’t getting proper protection. They are worried enough that they’ve asked OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to investigate.

“Reports of injuries and illness among workers hired by British Petroleum and its subcontractors are steadily increasing,” said the letter signed by Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine and Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch. They continued, “We also are receiving daily reports of other injuries and illnesses that have us concerned that proper protections are not being taken and protocols followed,” but did not provide further details.

BP may bring 3,000 more clean-up workers to their state, the secretaries say, and they want to ensure that every one of them receives the necessary training, supplies, and protective equipment.

In Louisiana hospitals, doctors have reported that some of the workers are seeking treatment for respiratory issues, headaches and nausea. (An unspoken concern is the massive amount of paperwork for health insurance claims.)

The letter to OSHA also said that the Department of Health and Hospitals has begun “an aggressive surveillance and monitoring system to catalog worker-related illnesses and exposure complaints.” It asked for a list of worker complaints made to OSHA and the federal agency’s findings.

Last Friday, June 4th, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an order to let out-of-state paramedics help with emergency care for oil cleanup workers.