NOPSEMA must take strong action against use of potentially toxic dispersant chemicals

Australia's offshore petroleum industry safety regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, must fully investigate the use of potentially deadly dispersants to clean up oil spills in Australia.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said reports on 60 Minutes regarding dispersants used to clean up spills in Australia were deeply concerning, and that NOPSEMA needed to conduct a genuine and timely investigation, putting health and safety first. To watch the 60 Minutes program broadcast on Sunday 18 August 2013 in which Jane Cutler, the CEO of NOPSEMA appears click on the link

"The ACTU has major concerns that NOPSEMA could do a much better job, and ensure it takes the views of workers and unions into account when investigating breaches," Mr Borowick said. "It is workers who are at risk from any safety failure in the industry. It must ensure that it conducts a thorough and unbiased investigation into this issue.

Mr Borowick said that dispersants used by BP to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 had been linked to serious illness and death in the USA, and it was a major concern that they might have been used in Australia's offshore petroleum facilities. "There is evidence that the dispersant substance is hazardous to humans and the environment. NOPSEMA

should be applying the 'Precautionary Principle' to these chemicals, treating them as harmful until they can be proven otherwise.

Mr Borowick said that national OHS laws should be extended to cover offshore workers, who were currently operating under less protection than other Australian workers.