UK offshore associations addressing crew safety

March 30, 2020
Oil & Gas UK is collaborating with the offshore industry safety organization Step Change in Safety to offer support to offshore personnel during the coronavirus pandemic.

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN, UKOil & Gas UK (OGUK) is collaborating with the offshore industry safety organization Step Change in Safety to offer support to offshore personnel during the coronavirus pandemic.

They have opened a new online hub that provides guidance, videos, and FAQs that addresses concerns on virus prevention/protection measures in around 150 manned UK offshore installations, along with a large onshore workforce.

Both organizations are working to supply the most accurate information available on travel via offshore helicopter, health screening and training re-certification. This is available on both the Step Change in Safety and OGUK websites.

OGUK chief executive Deirdre Michie and Step Change in Safety executive director Steve Rae said in a joint statement:

“Our message to our people is clear: you are doing an essential job in keeping us safe and warm, and we need to work together to keep you safe at work.

“Working tirelessly with governments, regulators, and our industry we have secured clear arrangements on the safe removal of suspected cases from offshore, on establishing our workforce as key workers so they can continue to send their children to school if they have to and to continue to travel to work and on temperature testing as standard at all heliports.

“We continue to work with governments to make the case for testing of offshore personnel, and now, more than ever before, we will be supporting our workforce to feel and be safe as they carry out their essential work…We will continue to encourage the participation of the unions, the regulator, and our members to work together in circumstances that are completely unprecedented.”

Trevor Stapleton, OGU’s HSE director, gave a more detailed account during a briefing late last week of some of the measures adopted so far by UK offshore operators.

At heliports for North Sea/Irish Sea destinations temperature checking is in place for boarding offshore personnel. Offshore, all operations are being reviewed in terms of strictly necessary workloads, with minimum manning levels where possible, and all non-essential work halted.

Cleaning staff are not in the latter category, he stressed, as cleaning on offshore installations has become a top priority. “However, we may need fewer cooks as installations are not catering for some many people.”

Some operators have held consultations with their workforce on adjusting rotas. “We have also produced guidelines for vulnerable people - although it’s up to the operators to assess these - because only the least vulnerable people should be going offshore.”

Stapleton added that communication on developments need to be improved, hence the decision to work with Step Change in Safety on closer engagement with the workforce. Step Change is already producing a few videos, he said, including interviews with an OGUK spokesperson and the CEO of one of the helicopter providers.

One goal is to try to persuade any individuals that may have concerns to raise these with their company or safety representatives. “We need this feedback in order to do more,” he explained.

Certain helicopters have been adapted to deal with suspected cases of COVID-19 (the same type of craft that were configured to handle the Ebola virus in Africa), or with individuals that may have been in close contact with these cases. A doctor is on hand to make sure that these individuals are asymptomatic.

One concern that has been raised is people at heliports lining up to check in for flights standing too close to each other. Stapleton said this would be investigated.

Offshore, OGUK’s advice is to follow guidance provided by Healthcare Protection Scotland. Some operators have been looking to stagger catering hours to avoid too many personnel being in close proximity to each other.

Another priority for the association is to form a logistics group, Stapleton said, in part to ensure staff can continue to travel between their homes and their offshore installation. OGUK is trying to identify companies that are prepared to provide mini-buses, and ‘havens’, with many hotels close to UK offshore heliports shutting down or shutting their doors to offshore crews because of the perceived risk.

Functioning hotels are needed in the Aberdeen area, Norwich and Hull on England’s east coast, and in Blackpool on the English northwest coast.