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The Incident of the Prince William Sound in Alaska Research Paper


Introduction

In the fiscal 1989 on March 24, the reservoir base of Exxon Valdez ship 987 smacked the Alaska’s Prince William Sound Bligh Reef. The subsequent impact was the prevalent oil spill that has ever since then been remembered in the history of the United States. In less than five hours, the most receptive ecological unit of one state was flooded with rudimentary oil approximated to be more than ten million gallons.

In fact, in the Prince William Sound only, the spilt crude oil scattered and covered more than three hundred and fifty miles of the offshore while the total area flooded with oil spill was in excess of three thousand square miles (Bryan, 2003). The preliminary response to the Ship Valdez Oil Spill was perceived to be deficient and sluggish.

However, according to the OSHA Act of 1970, Exxon Company failed to enforce or institute safety measures and standards, which could have ensured that both women and men who worked in the corporation had healthy and safe working conditions. Thus, from the failure of Exxon Corp to comply with the stipulated OSHA regulatory standards, a historical publicized incident occurred at Prince William Sound in Alaska.

The incident violated and greatly affected the environment, human beings, plants, as well as other land and sea animals besides affecting the country’s economic performance. This paper discusses particular sections of the applicable OSHA regulations that Exxon Corporation neglected, the hazards the workforce of this company encountered because of the failure to comply with OSHA regulations, and the recommended corrective actions that Exxon should implement to avoid future reoccurrence of similar neglect.

Sections of the applicable OSHA regulations that Exxon Corporation neglected

From the historically publicized Ship Valdez Oil Spill that occurred in the fiscal 1989 at Prince William Sound in Alaska, it is clear that Exxon Corp neglected certain regulations stipulated in the OSHA Act that might have warranted healthy and safe working conditions for its employees.

From the investigations carried out by NTSB (The Board of National Transportation Safety) on the cause of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill incident, it was apparent that the accident occurred from various negligence causes (Wells, 1995). The negligence causes of the oil spill are as discussed below.

The regulations set in the OSHA Act require companies such as Exxon to train and educate their workforce on issues relating to workplace safety and aspects of healthy working conditions. However, Exxon Corp neglected this regulation by sending incompetent master to be in charge of the ship that was transporting million gallons of oil.

From the case, it is apparent that the captain, Hazelwood Joe, rotated those on shift without the knowledge that the ship had started encountering some navigation problems (Skinner & Reilly, 1989). Thus, Exxon Corp failed to provide escort services and a more effective ship pilots to give directions on how the ship ought to have been navigated.

Exxon Corp management did not notify the United States Coast Guard that a fully loaded oil ship was navigating towards Alaska. The negligence on the side of Exxon Corp therefore made it impossible for the coast guards from the U.S. to offer sufficient oil-ship traffic systems that could have helped rescue the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

Given that the accident occurred at mid night, it was difficult to operate the ship or notify the coastal guards and the responsible authorities that the ship encountered some problems since those on board lacked proper communication and traffic systems. Lack of such safety measures in the Exxon Ship resulted into unhealthy working conditions for the crews (Wells, 1995).

The OSHA regulations necessitate that in order to avoid workplace injuries, the company’s workforce ought to be supervised properly as well as given adequate rest. This was however not the case with Exxon Shipping Corporation. For instance, the in charge navigators did not have enough rest given that there were no sufficient crews in the Exxon Valdez Ship.

Negligence on the side of the company resulted into excessive employees’ workload that probably caused exhaustion to the third crew in charge of directing the ship. In fact, fatigue made it practically impossible for the crew to maneuver the Exxon Company vessel (Bryan, 2003).

Finally, Exxon Shipping Company did not supervise the workplace regulations as stipulated in the OSHA regulations. For example, Hazelwood, the ship’s captain is believed to have propagated the occurrence of Exxon Valdez Ship accident since he hardly offered sufficient navigation watch or supervision. Most investigative reports show that the ship’s captain was operating under alcohol influence by the time the accident took place and he was always in his quarters (Wells, 1995).

The hazards faced by the workforce of this company

From the failure to comply with OSHA regulations, Exxon Company workforces faced various health hazards. In fact, there were budding health hazards emerging from the oil spill caused by Exxon Corp negligence including the indirect or direct exposure to toxins via food chains, fatigues related to loss of way of life along with health hazards encountered during the cleaning processes.

The safety of food

Since most mammals and fish that constitute the workforce food chain were found dead while others were alive, it was difficult to distinguish between safe food for consumption and contaminated food. Upon testing, most selfish and fish showed positive results with respect to the existence of explosive oil constituents. The consumption of untested food could have resulted into the death of the workforce or long term health problems.

Mental health hazard

The workforce of Exxon Corp, fishermen, emergency workers, and other parties who helped the corporation in the clean-up process were exposed to numerous mental health problems. For example, lack of adequate sleep or rest could have caused mental disturbance for the ship crews. In fact, deficiency of sleep could have caused the crews to cause even further accidents or fire incidences that could have claimed the lives of Exxon Company workforce (Skinner & Reilly, 1989).

Workplace wellbeing and protection

When the Exxon Valdez Oil drip transpires, the corporation appointed inhabitants who owned yachts, anglers, and deployed some of its labor force to facilitate the successful oil cleaning and floating functions. It was estimated that the corporation employed from two thousand to five thousand individuals to assist in cleaning up the shoreline that was covered with oil. However, the company did not offer adequate protection measures during the cleaning up process thus workers were exposed to potential problems and injuries.

The workforce articulated their apprehensions with respect to health and safety hazards when carrying out the oil cleaning operations to both the federal and state authorities (Skinner & Reilly, 1989). For instance, there were reported cases of irritating eyes and sore throats. In the event that more oil could have been spilt, there were chances of employees deaths arising from either fire, work stress, or choking.

Some of the occupation safety and health hazards included dermal exposures to the non-explosive crude oil constituents as well as the inhalation contact with volatile rudimentary oil elements. Moreover, the workforces were obliged to work for long hours hence they suffered from stress, fatigue, and excessive workloads.

Thus, there were possibilities that hypothermia and physical injuries could have occurred to Exxon Shipping Company employees (Bryan, 2003). Given that some of the people employed to help in the spilt oil clean up operations were not adequately trained or educated, they lacked information on how dreadful the oil being transported could cause death or injuries. Some of them hardly wore gumboots or protective clothes hence being exposed to the material health effects.

The recommended corrective actions that Exxon to avoid future reoccurrence of similar neglect

Exxon Shipping Corporation should adequately train its workforce, offer suitable protective gadgets, as well as institute the occupational health and safety inspection measures. These should be organized and emphasized by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, Exxon Shipping Corporation, and coordinated by OSHA.

Before the Exxon oil ship sets off, the company should ensure that, there are enough crews on board and that every worker is adequately rested to avoid incidences of workload, fatigue, and work stress. Each of these workers should have adequate training and education on how to manage work related stress, assigned duties, shift rotations, and the health hazards associated with navigating the ship or giving direction to the crews while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Exxon Shipping Corporation should ensure that there are response organizations to help in the management of oil spills. That is, the company should employ the team concept including the state, federal agencies, the OSC, and the spiller to help in the management and transportation of oil. However, it is advisable that the company should institute effective clean up groups and set up proper on-scene communication systems to shun the reoccurrence of similar incidents.

The Coast Guards ought to be notified about the departure of the Exxon ship and constantly communicated to so as to ensure that everything is in order. In case the company gets negligence reports from the staffs on board, decisive corrective actions should be employed to avert reoccurrence of the same actions. The corrective measures may include terminating contracts of an employee, demotion, taking the employee back for initial training and education or sending the responsible workforce for compulsory leave.

Corrective actions taken by Exxon Shipping Company

Exxon Corp paid for monetary charges and the responsibility associated with cleaning up the spilt oil. The company set up proper communication networks including remote transmitters to avoid future communication failures. Additional training and education were given to the crew on matters relating to disaster management while the pilot was detained for 1000 hours to help in the spilt oil clean up processes (Wells, 1995).

Conclusion

Exxon Valdez oil spill is amongst the historically publicized incidents that will be remembered even in the future years. The accident occurred due the negligence by the company to ensure that the working conditions for its employees were safe and healthy. In fact, there was failure by the company to implement strategies and measures that could have reduced incidences of employees’ workload, stress, fatigue, and ship navigation while under alcohol or drug influence (Bryan, 2003).

Thus, the paper discussed particular sections of the applicable OSHA regulations that Exxon Corporation neglected, the hazards the workforce of this company encountered because of the failure to comply with OSHA regulations, and the recommended corrective actions that Exxon should implement to avoid future reoccurrence of similar neglect. Exxon Company had to pay for the damages accruing from the employee negligence.

References

Bryan, N. (2003). Exxon Valdez oil spill. New York, NY: World Almanac Library.

Skinner, S. K. & Reilly, W. K. (1989). The Exxon Valdez oil spill. PDF File. Web.

Wells, P. G. (1995). Exxon Valdez oil spill: Fate and effects in Alaskan waters. Journal of ASTM International, 13 (1219), 21-955.

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IvyPanda. (2019, August 20). The Incident of the Prince William Sound in Alaska. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/osha-regulations/

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IvyPanda. "The Incident of the Prince William Sound in Alaska." August 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/osha-regulations/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Incident of the Prince William Sound in Alaska." August 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/osha-regulations/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Incident of the Prince William Sound in Alaska'. 20 August.

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