March 17, 2022

New OSHA Page Collects Resources for Oil Spill Emergencies

A new safety and health topic page published by OSHA collects information on occupational health and safety issues related to emergency preparedness and response for oil spills. Workers and employers can visit the page to learn about the National Contingency Plan, which contains regulations for managing and responding to oil spills and other hazardous substance releases; how OSHA’s standard on hazardous waste operations and emergency response applies during oil spill emergencies; and the agency’s role in oil spill response, which includes enforcement, compliance assistance, and technical assistance activities. The new page also addresses equipping and training emergency response workers as well as workers in other industries like commercial fishing that could be affected by oil spills. A separate section covers topics such as exposure assessment and monitoring, personal protective equipment, decontamination, and medical surveillance and management.

According to OSHA, the Incident Command System (ICS) is used for managing oil spill responses. As described in the April 2021 article “Taking Command of Emergency Response,” ICS is “a management system that provides a clear and concise framework for planning for, responding to, and controlling an emergency incident.” Industrial hygienists and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals can read more about their role in preparing for and responding to emergency incidents in the digital Synergist.

Recent examples of oil spills in the United States include a Dec. 27, 2021, spill near New Orleans, Louisiana, caused by a corroded pipeline rupture and a crude oil spill from a pipeline leak off the coast of California in October 2021. Internationally, a major oil spill in Peru first made headlines in January when thousands of barrels of oil were spilled as a tanker was pumping crude oil into a refinery.