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Covid-19: Workplace Risk & the Oil & Gas Sector

Last modified: June 21 2021

The collapse in oil prices majorly driven by low demand and the supply glut due to the Covid-19 Pandemic has hit the industry hard, and most exploration companies around the world are reconsidering their spending plan. This has resulted in suspension/cancelation of several drilling contracts in the sector. Also, lower rig counts across the globe and force majeure declaration on several drilling contracts. However, global oil outlook suggests that prices will pick up in Q3/Q4 2020, driven by controlled production from OPEC agreements and increased fuel consumption as a result of re-opening of major factories. This will in turn lead to increased oil demand and operators increase in Capex for field exploration and production and an increase in drilling activities in the near term.

Therefore, it is important to look at some of the envisaged changes that will be the "new norm" for an offshore platform worker.

  • 1.Increased hitch days: Quarantine measures if sustained will require an offshore worker to be isolated for at least 2 weeks before joining the rig/installation/platform. Ultimately, offshore workers' hitch will be extended by 2 weeks due to the quarantine period.
  • 2.Exposure to Fire hazard: There will be increased usage of alcohol-based cleansers including hand gel sanitizers. Rig workers must be mindful that liquid sanitizers can be a source of fuel for static energy and should avoid touching hot surfaces including metals immediately after the application of such gel.
  • 3.Social distancing and shared resources: some facilities on offshore platforms like the dining room are shared usage. The new norm could result in re-arranging the halls to promote social distancing and this may call for time slots for meals to avoid overcrowding and maintain social distancing.
  • 4.Additional PPE: rig workers should be prepared to work with additional PPE's like face mask and surgical caps. The effect of wearing these PPE's for extended hours is a subject of debate. Greenhalgh et al (2020) identified the following potential side effects of face mask usage that needs to be considered;

The quality and the volume of speech between two people wearing masks is considerably compromised Face masks make breathing more difficult especially over a prolonged period of use In conclusion, offshore/ oil platform workers should be prepared for a new norm which may include the above and should take adequate precaution in ensuring work is continued in a safe and healthy manner.

Therefore, it is important to look at some of the envisaged changes that will be the "new norm" for an offshore platform worker.

  • Greenhalgh T, Schmid MB, Czypionka T, et al. Face masks for the public during the covid-19 crisis. BMJ 2020; m1435. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1435
  • Advice on the use of masks in the community, during home care and in healthcare settings in the context of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • https://www.westwoodenergy.com/news/westwood-insight/the-state-of-exploration-2020
  • https://www.thebalance.com/oil-price-forecast-3306219

outbreak(2019-ncov)-outbreak (accessed 14 May 2020).https://www.who.int/publications-detail/advice-on-the-use-of-masks-in-th…

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Olaolu Coker, Nigeria

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