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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar urging him to work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to craft strong regulations to protect workers in the gas and oil industry, especially those working on the outer continental shelf.  

“As you know, we have begun a series of hearings looking at workplace safety in the oil and gas industry, and how we can improve and make consistent standards and worker protections across the industry. It appears clear to us that when considering oversight of safety requirements and standards off-shore and on the outer continental shelf there is a lack of consistency and a lack of coordination between various federal agencies,” the Senators wrote. 

Earlier this month, Senator Murray chaired a hearing of the Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee to investigate the failure of oil and gas companies to learn from previous tragedies and implement effective worker safety processes.

The full text of the letter appears below:

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240 

Secretary Salazar:

As you know, we have begun a series of hearings looking at workplace safety in the oil and gas industry, and how we can improve and make consistent standards and worker protections across the industry. It appears clear to us that when considering oversight of safety requirements and standards off-shore and on the outer continental shelf there is a lack of consistency and a lack of coordination between various federal agencies.

We are aware that Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOE), the renamed successor to the Minerals Management Service (MMS), is in the process of preparing a “Safety and Environmental Management Systems” regulation which will cover worker safety on the outer continental shelf, including oil and gas drilling rigs. We are also aware that while there was some preliminary interaction between BOE/MMS and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the start of this process nearly a year ago, there has been no follow-up or active consultation with OSHA since that time.

We strongly encourage that BOE work closely with OSHA as this regulation is being developed and finalized, and that BOE take full advantage of the expertise in workplace safety and worker protections available through OSHA. We believe that BOE should take into account the best aspect of all existing guidelines, standards and recommendations.

We urge BOE to reengage fully with OSHA and to not delay the issuance of this much needed regulation. As this process moves forward we would ask that our staff be briefed on a regular basis. Thank you for your attention to this letter.