Given the remote and isolated nature of offshore oil and natural gas operations, special safety measures have been put in place in Newfoundland and Labrador to protect offshore workers during the current pandemic.
Ensuring workforce health and safety is the primary focus of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and our members. Offshore operators are working with regulators, governments and health authorities, and enacting well-established processes and plans to manage potential impacts related to infectious diseases.
Specific protection protocols
Companies operating offshore Newfoundland and Labrador have implemented appropriate measures, including reducing the number of personnel onboard offshore facilities. In addition, extra screening is in place at the heli-port to reduce the risk of someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 travelling to an offshore facility. Special measures include:
- When offshore workers arrive at the heli-port, nurses facilitate a series of screening questions, assessing the worker’s travel history to help determine exposure risk. Nurses also check temperature. Individuals are not permitted to check in until this process is complete.
- Enhanced cleaning procedures at the heli-port and for helicopters used to transport offshore workers; visitor access to the heli-port has also been eliminated, social distancing practices have been put in place in common areas of the facility and access to search and rescue aircraft and facilities has now been restricted to only essential employees.
- Social distancing measures have been put in place on offshore facilities for meetings, meals and in common spaces. Workers who share accommodation are being scheduled on opposite shifts to avoid being in shared rooms at the same time. Sanitization measures are also in place to disinfect surfaces between shifts.
- New food handling practices have been implemented.
- If an individual develops symptoms while offshore, operators have the ability to isolate them and transfer them onshore.
As for supply vessels, operators are following similar protocols put in place by the International Maritime Organization and WHO. This includes completion of a questionnaire related to travel history and potential symptoms.
A special exemption order is in place allowing those involved in the transportation of offshore workers, and those involved in essential work offshore, to travel offshore if they are coming from another province or country without self-isolating for 14 days.
These individuals would have to self-isolate when not working. Industry will apply this exemption only in exceptional circumstances. At the present time there are no plans to send anyone to work on Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore facilities who hasn’t followed the 14-day isolation quarantine.
Continuing to Operate Safely
With the current mitigations in place, operators are confident they can continue to operate safely while protecting workers and this decision aligns with other worldwide offshore operations. As the situation evolves, the offshore industry will continue to monitor new information, work with governments and regulators and implement additional protection measures as required.