From Save Our Gulf dot org:
BP Tells Fishermen Working On The Oil Spill That They Will Be Fired For Wearing A Respirator
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.
Hundreds of fisherman have been hired to attach booms to their shrimp boats in place of nets and drive their boats directly through the oil slicks to corral and collect the oil that is spilling from BP's broken well in the Gulf of Mexico. These fisherman have one of the highest potentials for exposure to toxic air pollutants from the crude oil out of all of the responders working the spill. In addition to crude oil there is the added danger posed by the aerial application of dispersant chemicals and there have already been reports that fishermen working on the spill feel that they have been impacted by the dispersants.
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.
When we first realized that these workers were not being provided with adequate safety gear we activated our project that provides safety gear to people working on hurricane recovery but, in this case tailored to oil spill response. We have since distributed hundreds of half face respirators with multiple packs of organic vapor cartridges a piece as well as nitrile gloves, sleeve protectors and booties.
LEAN also participated in what we thought was a successful Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), brought by a team of layers led by attorney Stuart Smith, requiring BP to provide the volunteers with safety gear. As a result of that TRO, "the Judge ordered a consent agreement, now court record, wherein British Petroleum has agreed to amend the Master Vessel Charter Agreement and take responsibility to ensure workers are properly trained in haz-mat protocol and are provided all necessary equipment at BP's expense," said James Garner, of Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert, L.L.C.
"It appears that, despite the obvious potential for exposure to respiratory toxins, BP does not consider respiratory protection necessary equipment," said Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, "and even so to prevent the fishermen from using their own respiratory protection if they chose to do so is deeply troubling."
"The fisherman have entered into this (Master Vessel Charter) agreement with BP in order to make some income while they are unable to fish," Orr went on to say. "These fisherman are choosing to put themselves in harms way in order to provide for their families and that BP would force them to sacrifice their health in order to make ends meet when simply using a respirator could protect their health is unconscionable."
"There's no way you can be working in that toxic soup without getting exposures," said Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) office of solid waste and emergency response. Kaufman likened the situation to the World Trade Center cleanup after 9/11, which left workers with long-term respiratory problems despite repeated official claims that workers did not need respirators because the working conditions were safe. "It's unbelievable what's going on. It's like deja vu all over again," he said.