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Republicans Press for Improved Worker Safety Coordination in Oil Spill Cleanup
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee today held a hearing on “Worker Health and Safety from the Oil Rig to the Shoreline.” Members heard from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Minerals Management Service – four federal agencies that share responsibility for worker safety on offshore rigs and during cleanup efforts after a spill. The hearing focused on worker safety in relation to BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion and the ongoing recovery effort in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Numerous federal agencies, each operating with their own mission and array of officials, rules, and regulations, have descended on the Gulf to assist in the cleanup and investigate the causes of this disaster. Yet we know from experience that poorly organized federal bureaucracies can be clumsy, delay response time, and even impede efforts underway at the state and local levels,” said Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the committee’s Senior Republican. “There are a number of federal agencies sharing regulatory responsibility, involving both the safety of crews working on the rigs and the teams cleaning up the beaches. State officials and individual citizens have expressed frustration as they attempt to navigate the federal response process.”
During the hearing, Members questioned coordination among the four federal agencies and the state and local authorities responsible for managing workers and volunteers participating in the Deepwater Horizon recovery and cleanup. Members noted there is no single agency holding authority for offshore rigs and onshore cleanup, which places an additional responsibility on the agencies to coordinate their efforts and identify who is in charge.
“Today’s hearing provided a critical look at the recovery and response effort and highlighted questions that need to be answered about who is ultimately responsible for protecting the safety and health of workers and volunteers,” said Kline. “As the recovery continues, every effort must be made to provide the necessary training and tools to the individuals helping clean up the Gulf. At the same time, we need to further review the resources and expertise of the agencies involved to ensure the most efficient and effective federal disaster response.”
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