As newly-hired workers race to clean up the Gulf, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has raised concerns that workers hired by BP are not receiving the exact amount of hours of training OSHA recommends. There are a number of training courses, including the “hazardous waste operation and emergency response standard” or HAZWOPER, which OSHA has said is only required for supervisors. But according to The Press-Register, contractors have been giving all who sign up the 40-hour HAZWOPER course. Despite the fact that OSHA’s own guidelines state that workers on boats require eight hours of cleanup and those performing beach cleanup require just four hours, OSHA has complained that some workers might not be getting the full hours and that some classes may have more than the recommended 30 students per class.
These complaints come as Thad Allen, National Incident Commander, revealed yesterday that cleanup efforts were delayed by more than a month so that decisions could be made on how to use all the boats which had enlisted in the cleanup effort.
In short, we have the government admitting that their lack of coordination caused a delayed cleanup response, while another government agency is nitpicking about the amount of hours of training workers have received, even when, admittedly, many are likely receiving more training than necessary anyway. Not exactly a stellar example of government’s ability to manage a crisis.
In other news, the 5th Circuit yesterday refused to reinstate the drilling ban before hearing the appeal in August, stating that “Interior Secretary Ken Salazar] has filed to demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable injury if the stay is not granted.” But as we reported yesterday, even in the absence of an official ban, a stealth ban remains. As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said in the wake of yesterday’s news, “We have very serious concerns that the Department of Interior is going to announce a second moratorium … despite the injunction against the original moratorium, we currently have a de facto moratorium because of uncertainty from the Department of Interior.” Even members of the environmental lobby that support the ban have admitted as much. “Clearly, it’s legally allowed,” said Catherine Wannamaker, an environmental lawyer, referring to offshore drilling, “The question is, practically speaking, will anybody do it given the uncertainty? It’s hard to know what will happen.”