Oil spills may be caused by damage to oil carriers such as trains, planes,
vehicles or ships; or by damage to an oil platform. The damage may be due to an
accident, storm damage, equipment failure, or human error. The spilled oil can
pollute the surrounding air, water and soil. The effects of the oil depend on
the type spilled: some oils are highly toxic to humans, others have low toxicity
but their impact on waterfowl and wildlife can be severe.
response workers may encounter many health and safety hazards, including fire
and explosion; inhalation and skin contact with oil, dispersants and other
chemicals; physical injury from slippery surfaces and moving debris; confined
spaces; heavy equipment; drowning; heat and cold stress; contact with wildlife,
poisonous plants and noise; and stress.