This morning, Delaware Congressman Mike Castle participated in a U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee hearing on "Worker Health and Safety from the Oil Rig to the Shoreline." The hearing examined the issues related to worker safety following the catastrophic explosion of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon Rig, operated by BP, on April 20, 2010. Eleven workers lost their lives in this tragedy, and many more were injured, and the health and safety of those participating in the cleanup is an issue of ongoing concern, as is improving health and safety standards for American workers moving forward.
"While the damage continues to devastate the Gulf region, along with victim compensation and environmental cleanup, strengthening regulations and prevention mechanisms that put a higher priority on human safety and the environment must be a priority. The Committee heard today from key agencies responsible for ensuring the safety and health of workers--and it was clear from the testimony that the strategy for who is in charge of ensuring safety both when it comes to workers and the environment needs work," said Rep. Castle. "I was able to ask about the role and frequency of safety inspections, including on emergency shut off devices, and learned that the number of inspectors to inspect all the rigs and platforms is insufficient. Regulations to improve safety standards and inspections to ensure they are met are critical for the safety of oil and gas workers, the environment, and public health. As a result of this and other congressional hearings and the findings of the President's commission, I would like for us to urgently pursue bipartisan solutions to meet the current safety and environmental challenges we face. Advancing domestic, clean, energy solutions must follow."
Today's hearing, the first held by the Education and Labor Committee on this spill, focused on workers' safety laws as well as oversight lapses that could have led to this disaster. Additionally, special attention was paid to the circumstances surrounding the safety and health of workers throughout the Gulf region participating in cleanup efforts.
Testifying before the Committee this morning were:
* David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Assistant Secretary, Occupational Safety and Health Administration;
* John Howard, Esq., MD, MPH, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health;
* Rear Admiral Kevin Cook, Director of Prevention Policy, U.S. Coast Guard;
* Doug Slitor, Acting Chief of the Office of Regulatory Programs, Minerals Management Service.
Rep. Castle is a cosponsor of legislation, H.R. 5313, Offshore Safety and Response Improvement Act, which would:
* Require emergency acoustic shut-off devices;
* Development of contingency places for oil related disasters;
* Comprehensive review of current technology and methods used to mitigate spills.