Oil spill responder safety guide



IPIECA, London, UK


Health and safety should be the cornerstone of all oil spill preparatory measures. The purpose of the report is to investigate the safety aspects of oil spills and their response, focusing on identifying the principal safety issues when an oil spill occurs, their degree of severity and the practical steps that can be taken to minimise the impact of the spill. It is recognised that safety is managed in many different ways around the world and no attempt is made to provide a ‘blue-print’ safety document.

Management control of spill safety

The safety of the general public and responders is assigned the highest priority during spill response operations. A response management system, with safety as its core element, should start from the top and penetrate to all levels within the organisations participating in response activities.

To ensure that safety takes its proper place during response operations special actions need to be taken. The management team should appoint an individual and, if necessar y, a supporting team, with a responsibility for safety management. Responders can often become too involved in operations and not be able to take an overall view of the situation. The safety manager needs to be able to step back from the operation and consider wider issues.

The safety manager should be responsible for monitoring and maintaining awareness of active and developing situations, assessing hazardous and unsafe  situations and developing measures to assure personnel safety. The following measures are described more fully in the report:

• Site assessment

• Developing and implementing a Site Safety and Health Plan (SSHP)

• Participating in planning meetings to identify health and safety concerns

• Correcting unsafe acts or conditions through the regular line of authority

• Establishing first-aid stations and medical facilities in accordance with the SSHP

Risk assessment

The first task that should be undertaken when preparing to conduct oil spill response operations is a comprehensive risk assessment and hazard analysis. When an oil spill occurs the management team will need to carry out a high level risk assessment of the overall situation as soon as possible to ensure that oil spill responders or the wider population are not in danger. The initial approach should be to answer such questions as:

• Is there a potential gas cloud and therefore an explosion risk?

• Should people be evacuated or excluded?

• Is the environment safe for people?

• Will oil enter water systems that may affect people?

The risks posed by particular operations or locations should be assessed on a case by case basis; an example of a typical Site Safety Survey Form is given in the report.  The risk assessment should be fully documented and filed.

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