That’s the excellent question asked in a post by Elizabeth Grossman on The Pump Handle blog. The answer, Grossman finds, is still — like the crisis — evolving. She writes:
As the unprecedented offshore oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico unfolds and extraordinary measures are being taken to protect vulnerable coastal and marine environments from the toxic fuel, the question arises: Is the health and safety of responders being protected as well? Over the past week, I’ve been investigating this question for The Pump Handle, but answers to my questions have not been forthcoming. On May 3, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) head David Michaels visited the Gulf and profile of responder health and safety issues began to rise, but many questions remain unanswered…
…A pressing question is how to ensure the health and safety of response workers – a question being asked with the specters of the Exxon Valdez, World Trade Center, and Hurricane Katrina looming large. Concern is real that in the rush to protect beaches, sensitive wetlands, and wildlife – and to contain the massive oil flow – health and safety of those on the front lines is receiving scant attention.
Obviously, the health and safety of all rescue workers should be a top priority (though this blog will be focused on the thousands of citizens who volunteer for the cleanup — Grossman says there have 14,500 involved so far.) It’s a topic that we’ll continue to keep an eye on as the situation develops. Grossman’s full post can be found here.