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Gulf Beach Cleaners Risking Their Lives!

From a tear soaked New York Times:

Under a Withering Sun, Spill Cleanup Workers Must Break Frequently


June 13, 2010

GRAND ISLE, La. — On a beach where the sea breeze reeks of oil, about a dozen workers stoically shoveled contaminated sand into plastic bags on a recent afternoon, while others lolled on chairs and beverage coolers under a white tent nearby, chatting and dozing against the tent’s poles.

Where is the justice?

But there was a logic to the latter group’s inactivity. Cleanup crews have come up against a foe even more unyielding than the spill in the Gulf of Mexico: the heat.

Officials with BP, which is responsible for the cleanup, say that the gulf region’s soaring temperatures have slowed the work because of added measures to protect more than 18,000 workers on land and at sea across four states from the scorching sun.

We knew that it was only a matter of time before ‘global warming’ got blamed.

With the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is taken into account, at 110 degrees or more in some locales, at least 100 workers have had heat-related illnesses, some of which required hospitalization, said David Michaels, assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the Department of Labor.

Mr. Michaels said the department had assigned more than 20 inspectors from OSHA to watch over workers on boats and beaches and at about 20 cleanup staging areas from Louisiana to Florida.

“This is potentially a life-threatening situation,” he said. “OSHA has been concerned about this from the very start. I’m not saying that BP is doing a terrible job, but we’re concerned and we’re vigilant.”

The most vulnerable are the workers on beaches like the one on this barrier island, some 112 miles south of New Orleans. Parts of the seven-mile beach, lined with vacation homes on stilts, resemble military construction sites, with snaking orange booms, portable restrooms and cruising Bobcat loaders and National Guard Humvees.

Out in the open, workers in groups of 10 to 15 — mostly men but also a few women — labored in white protective suits or T-shirts and jeans and accessories like sunglasses, straw or floppy hats, plastic gloves and rubber boots.

Depending on temperatures and whether the workers wear the bulkier protective clothing needed for handling oil, they may work for 20 minutes and rest for 40, or the other way around, a BP spokesman, Ray Viator, said.

Do you recall reading stories like this about our troops in Iraq? We don’t either.

Security personnel prevented reporters from approaching workers on the beach, but some of them, approached later, said they were able to cope with the heat because of the long breaks and the availability of water and sports drinks. Some said they drank up to 30 bottles a day.

“You need it,” a 21-year-old worker from Raceland in Lafourche Parish said on his way to his motel room after his shift. (He declined to be identified out of concern that he might jeopardize his cleanup job.) “I’m used to the heat, but it’s so hot that in 20 minutes you’re exhausted. One day, we worked for 15 minutes and took a break for 45. They said the heat index was 116.”

All the same, the sight of workers resting under canopies has caused some grumbling among residents angered by the loss of beaches, fishing, seafood and livelihoods.

Thomas Himel, 51, a home improvement contractor who was painting a beachfront home near the cleanup operations here,

A man at that advanced age was painting a house in that heat? Didn’t OSHA try to stop him?

[S]aid he had run into workers who “actually care about the situation and how it’s hurting us” and others who he felt were taking advantage of the disaster.

“They already have people with itchy eyes,” he said, suggesting that some workers were weighing personal injury lawsuits. “Some people are fully into that.”

The health risks from the heat alone are undisputed, said Laura Leckett, a nurse with West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, La., who has been running a first-aid tent here since May 31. Ms. Leckett said she had treated about 50 of the workers for heat-stress symptoms like headaches and muscle cramps.

“They feel sluggish,” she said. More serious symptoms can include rapid breathing, unresponsiveness and disorientation.

But some of the workers said the money they were making made the risks worthwhile.

A 28-year-old worker who said he had traveled here from Dallas said he was making $15 an hour scooping up oil at sea…

Gosh, this is rough.

As the local house painted suggests, we are sure there will some class action suits from these hard pressed workers in the near future. Perhaps they will even develop a ‘Gulf Syndrome’ of their own.

Meanwhile, is Mr. Obama being responsible when he encourages people to go down to the Gulf Coast for vacations? Shouldn’t he be warning us about the dangers of walking on a beach on a warm day?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, June 14th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

8 Responses to “Gulf Beach Cleaners Risking Their Lives!”

  1. proreason says:

    Guess the party:

    “while others lolled on chairs and beverage coolers under a white tent nearby, chatting and dozing against the tent’s poles.”

  2. Rusty Shackleford says:

    My god, what if a hurricane should happen to “occur”? Hopefully Nerobama can stop it before it reaches the gulf coast. Otherwise all those victims of the work details will be further vitimized. It’s just a bad situation that, due to republicans, is doomed to get worse.


  3. EvaTheFrisbeeDog says:

    This is a joke, right? OSHA is keeping an eye on people cleaning up a beach? Apart from the heat, are they concerned a shark might drag them into the water or the workers, overcome with heat exhaustion, may mistake the oil for chocolate syrup and eat it? Who’s watching the OSHA workers to ensure their safety, or are they observing in space suits with special AC units attached? People go to the beach in hot weather, I’m pretty sure.

  4. Widget Maker says:

    “Do you recall reading stories like this about our troops in Iraq? We don’t either.”

    Our Canadian troops spend several days acclimatizing in places like Rwanda and Afghanistan. That acclimatization process involves several days of sitting around and drinking a lot of water.

  5. Reality Bytes says:

    Another tilt to the AMA no doubt.

  6. Reality Bytes says:

    Sorry ABA the bar association. The AMA is for bikers. Hey, there’s an idea, we could send down a bunch of bikers. They’ll get those slouchers hoppin’>

  7. sheehanjihad says:

    I live in Southwest Florida…..and yes, it’s hot and humid….a lot more than the northern Gulf Beaches. I have yard work to do on a regular basis, and I wasn’t aware of how dangerous it was until OSHA showed me the err of my ways.

    So, I told my wife that I will mow for twenty minutes, but then I need a forty minute break with cold liquid refreshments. Then, I would trim for twenty minutes, but need an immediate one hour break with refreshments.

    I am writing this in the Emergency Room….I am hoping that the doctor can successfully remove my wife’s shoe from my butt….I called OSHA but they said they couldn’t help because I was working without a Union card.

    On the face of it, this is actually stupid. There are thousands of locals who would be happy to just get out there and clean up their beaches…but they aren’t allowed to by the Government, or the local Unions.

    What I find hilarious is seeing groups of cleaners dressed in space suits spooning up thimble sized tar balls…right next to half naked sunbathers and entire families enjoying a day at the beach.

    Stupid doesn’t begin to describe our government’s total lack of action in this disaster. Their ignorance and unwillingness to just get it done are more criminal than BP.

  8. canary says:

    Obama was posing on the beach with huge smile & slurpy drink with people basically milling on the beach. It didn’t look appropriate, and the footage didn’t show anything being done. Showed a group walking with empty bags along the shore line, and one guy bends over and picked something tiny up, and put it in his bag. Probably found a dime. Maybe turn it into a tourist beach Obama stood here in a historical world event. The Oily Obama Ocean Beach.

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