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Q&A: Government rules limit how long oil cleanup crews can work each hour

Oil spill crew's work is timed

I heard that the oil spill cleanup workers only work 20 minutes per hour. Is this a joke? They put what looks like a pound of tar in a big plastic bag and tie it up. This looks like it takes a crew of four. Then I guess it's break time. It's not hard work and after watching them on TV, a five-minute break per hour should be enough. Talk about wasted spending. I'd love to know the logic behind this. Everybody else that works outdoors in the summer doesn't get such lush treatment.

It's mostly true.

When the federal government stepped into the cleanup effort, it brought its rules along. According to the Coast Guard, OSHA set the work rules as a safety measure against the heat and exposure to chemicals used in the cleanup.

The workers who wear federally required hazardous material suits in their duties work 20 minutes an hour and rest 40. The workers who do not wear the suits work 40 minutes an hour, and rest in the shade for 20 minutes.

New workers or those returning from extended breaks get even more rest time to become acclimated. On days 1 and 2, those who don protective clothing work 10 minutes an hour. On days 3 and 4 the work time is bumped to 15, and then 20 minutes.

Those new or returning workers who don't wear the suits start at 20 minutes an hour on days 1 and 2, then 25 on days 3 and 4, gradually building up to 40 minutes an hour.

The rules also require shade within 100 yards of the work, and enough shade to be available to accommodate the number of workers for their rest cycles.

Even with these rules in place, dozens of cleanup workers have been treated for flulike symptoms or heat-related issues.

If you want to read the full plan, please see www.osha.gov/oilspills/heatstress_houma.pdf.

Eating contests can be deadly

I know that there have been several drinking contest fatalities, especially at frat parties, but how many eating contest fatalities have you heard of, say from choking or stomach ruptures, etc.? I heard of a young lady who, despondent about something, ate two dinners that resulted in her stomach rupturing and she died because of it.

We're not aware of anyone who keeps exhaustive statistics on people dying during eating contests, but there certainly have been some.

Among them: In February, a 13-year-old boy in Haiti choked to death on a hot dog during a contest to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of San Pedro. In 2008, a man in Wales died in a cupcake-eating contest. In 2007, a woman in Sacramento, Calif., died of water intoxication after competing in a bladder endurance contest sponsored by a radio station. In 2004, a Canadian man choked to death in a chicken wing eating contest.

Q&A: Government rules limit how long oil cleanup crews can work each hour 07/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:26am]

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