Environmental Action Network reports that British Petroleum is threatening to fire
fishermen hired to help with the oil spill cleanup for using respirators or other safety equipment that wasn't provided by the company.
But the fishermen say
they're wearing their own equipment because the company hasn't provided
what they need.
As LEAN reports in a
We have had numerous
fisherman, that have been hired through BP's Master Vessel Charter
Agreement to work on the oil spill response, tell us that their BP
"bosses" have told them that if they use a respirator or any safety
equipment not provided by BP that they would be fired. ...
It is only prudent that
these fisherman be provided respiratory protection and encouraged to
use it. Instead, they have not only NOT been provided respiratory
protection, they have been threatened with being fired for using their
own respiratory protection.
"It appears that, despite
the obvious potential for exposure to respiratory toxins, BP does not
consider respiratory protection necessary equipment," said Paul Orr, the
Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper with LEAN. Orr added that for BP to
prevent the workers from using their own respiratory equipment "is
Hundreds of Gulf Coast
fishermen have been put out of work by the ongoing oil spill that has so
far led to the closure of more
than 61,000 square miles of federal waters. Some have been
hired by BP to attach booms to their boats in place of nets and collect
the spilled oil, making them vulnerable to exposure to toxic air
pollutants from the oil and the chemical dispersants being used on the
LEAN has been providing
safety gear to workers, distributing hundreds of half-face respirators
and organic vapor cartridges. It's also providing nitrile gloves, sleeve
protectors and booties.
The organization worked
with a team of attorneys led by Stuart Smith to obtain a temporary
restraining order requiring BP to provide the workers with safety gear.
As a result of that order, a judge ordered a consent agreement
requiring BP to amend the Master Vessel Charter Agreement and train
workers in handling hazardous materials and to provide necessary
Hugh Kaufman, a senior
policy analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of
Solid Waste and Emergency Response, has said there's no way for people
to be working in such a toxic environment without being exposed to
hazardous chemicals. He compared the situation in the Gulf to what
happened at the World Trade Center after 9/11, when officials insisted
conditions were safe while workers without proper safety equipment ended
up with serious health problems.
"It's unbelievable what's
going on," Kaufman told the Washington Post. "It's like deja vu all over again."