Canadian oil and gas: protecting workers while supplying vital energy

Canada’s oil and natural gas industry produces essential energy for power generation, heating and transportation, plus feedstock for critical medical products.

Work is ongoing across Canada’s oil and natural gas sector. The effort to maintain operations amid the current COVID-19 pandemic is essential to keeping the lights on and refrigerators working (especially in provinces without large hydroelectricity generation capacity), keeping homes warm, providing fuel for transportation and hospitals, as well as energy such as diesel and oil for remote and northern communities. Oil and natural gas are also important feedstocks for producing medicines, medical equipment and other vital products.

“During this crisis we need to ensure the continuation of services Canadians depend on, and the oil and natural gas industry is committed to supplying the fuels and feedstocks we all need and use every day,” says Tim McMillan, President and CEO, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Worker protection protocols

While maintaining critical operations and production, ensuring workforce health and safety is the primary focus of CAPP and its members. The oil and natural gas industry is working with regulators, governments and health authorities, and enacting well-established processes and plans already in place to manage potential impacts related to infectious diseases.

Like other essential workers, on-site and field workers in the oil and natural gas industry (including offshore operations in Newfoundland and Labrador) are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Some specific measures include:

  • In the oil sands region, workers are encouraged to complete a prescribed daily COVID-19 assessment; facility operators have implemented additional screening procedures at sites for all permanent and contract workers, and are using clinical staff to monitor workers’ health and provide medical guidance; deep and frequent cleaning, and social distancing protocols, are in place.
  • If workers at remote locations show signs of infection, they will be isolated in their room, with their own bathroom wherever possible, and have meals delivered. Health authorities will be notified for further assessment.
  • Other precautions include having office staff work from home, cancelling non-essential travel, developing and implementing the safe transportation of workers to and from remote locations, staggering meal and flight times to minimize potential exposure, and evaluating scheduled maintenance events (turnarounds) to postpone them when possible.

As the situation evolves, the industry will continue to monitor new information and implement additional protection measures.

From crisis to recovery

Social distancing will have significant economic impacts in the short term, but this action is critical to weathering the storm and will hasten recovery.

The oil and natural gas sector has always been vital to Canada’s economy. The industry was fundamental to Canada’s economic recovery in 2008 / 2009 and the industry will again play a key role in the nation’s economic recovery as the pandemic crisis diminishes and provide long-term economic resilience.