Federal regulators complained in an internal memo about “significant deficiencies” in BP’s handling of the safety of oil-spill workers and asked the Coast Guard to help pressure the company to address a litany of concerns.
WASHINGTON — Federal regulators complained in an internal memo about “significant deficiencies” in BP’s handling of the safety of oil-spill workers and asked the Coast Guard to help pressure the company to address a litany of concerns.
The memo, written by a Labor Department official last week, reveals the Obama administration’s growing concerns about potential health and safety problems posed by the oil spill.
BP said it has deployed about 22,000 workers to combat the spill.
David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health who wrote the memo, raised the concerns Tuesday, the day before seven oil-spill workers on boats off the coast of Louisiana were hospitalized after experiencing nausea, dizziness and headaches.
In his memo to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Michaels said his agency has witnessed numerous problems at several work sites.
“The organizational systems that BP currently has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in cleanup operations,” Michaels wrote.
He added that BP “has also not been forthcoming with basic, but critical, safety and health information on injuries and exposures.”
Michaels raised the alarm about BP as his own agency came under fire for not being aggressive enough in monitoring the company or the contractors who are providing oil-spill cleanup training.
Graham MacEwen, a spokesman for BP, said his company is being responsive to problems as they develop.
Worker-safety advocates said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be doing more. Most workers are getting only the minimum hazardous-material training required, which is four hours.
Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said OSHA doesn’t think cleanup workers needed more extensive training.
“From what we know right now … we think the four-hour training is adequate,” Barab said. “That being said, we are constantly reassessing what’s going down there.”