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House labor committee chair Miller calls on OSHA to protect workers cleaning up BP spill

In the wake of increased reports that commercial fishermen hired by BP to help with oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast are experiencing a variety of illnesses, George Miller (D-Cal), Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, wrote a letter to OSHA chief David Michaels yesterday requesting an immediate mid-level briefing on the agency’s efforts to protect these workers. Miller sought to ensure that there were sufficient OSHA personnel dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico “to properly and aggressively protect the health and safety of those involved in the [BP] oil cleanup activities.”

According to an AP report, despite fishermen’s complaints to BP, the company claimed it was unaware of any such complaints and has not provided any respirators to workers who have experienced headaches, nausea, and eye, nose and throat irritation from odors associated with both petroleum and the chemical dispersants used to combat the spill. “Especially given the health and safety track record of one of the key corporations involved in this disaster,” Miller wrote, “heightened vigilance is necessary to ensure that every person aiding the cleanup is provided the necessary information, training, and equipment to protect themselves and those in their charge.” Miller also asked to be informed of any challenges or obstacles to rigorous monitoring and offered the services of his committee to assure that OSHA has the necessary resources and authority needed to protect workers.