COVID-19 FAQs

We answer the questions about COVID-19 from the UK oil & gas workforce.

These questions have all come from the oil and gas industry workforce via the Step Change in Safety website, social media channels and email inbox; OGUK; trade unions; and our members. We have also included the questions which, due to time constraints, could not be answered during our COVID-19 webinar. The responses are constantly updated and kept accurate.

Topics:

  • OFFSHORE SAFETY
  • WAGES and WELFARE
  • ESSENTIAL WORKERS
  • PRE-FLIGHT TEMPERATURE CHECKS
  • TRAVEL TO/FROM HELIPORT
  • OFFSHORE HELICOPTER TRAVEL
  • SCREENING
  • OFFSHORE CHECKS
  • OFFSHORE CLEANING
  • PPE
  • GOVERNMENT POLICY
  • TRAINING
  • MANNING LEVELS

Q: Cabin sharing: can a concerted industry wide effort be made to have day and night shift sharing and work scopes made to fit this. With the existence of 2, 3 and 4 people sharing rooms of bathrooms, toilets and communal areas - is this ALARP?

A: There is increased effort by duty holders to reduce cabin occupancy as and when the installation POB reduces. We have also provided good practice advice that can be followed regarding actions that can be taken in an offshore setting (e.g. staggered breaks, enhanced cleaning, personal hygiene, etc.)

Q: Is there any COVID-19 testing being done offshore? Is it just for safety critical workers?

A: Our general advice is that no testing is to be conducted offshore as per PHS guidelines, however we are aware that some employing companies and duty holders may be looking to hold test kits offshore. This is a dynamic situation that is changing rapidly.

Q: Routine maintenance on board is already falling behind, how is our safety affected by having less crew, and equipment past its inspection date?

A: In accordance with Safety Case regulations all duty holders are required to maintain sufficient manning to safely operate the installation and ensure that the ongoing planned activities focus on safety critical activities. If you have genuine concerns please take this up with your Supervisor, ESR and or OIM.

Q: Is it time to use electronic signatures and restrict paperwork on permits, to limit the changes of cross contamination with pens and paperwork contact?

A: At this time, we are not considering this and would advise that you follow frequent sanitising and washing of hands.

Q: How are safety and environmental critical elements (SECEs) shown as being managed when HSE are no longer going offshore to carry out audits and inspections?

Maintaining safe operations is still of critical importance, this has not changed because of COVID-19. The Health and Safety Executive have temporary measures in place where audits and inspections are being carried out remotely. If there is a need to go offshore, HSE will still go offshore.

Q. A lot of diving jobs have been postponed. In your opinion, are we likely to experience a very busy spell to catch up on the backload of work?

A. Anything that we are not doing currently or has been deferred in terms of safety critical activity will still need to be picked up. However, the picture is too wide depending on each company to comment.

Q. Question to HSE: From an inspector’s point of view, how will you prioritise where you go first once the lockdown is over. Will you resume normal business?

A. There are still planned inspections for this year and as time goes by, we will see how these fit. There could be concerns from the workforce which may change things. We will try and get back to normal in a sensible way. It will be a phased return but we don’t have all the details as yet.

Q: Alcohol hand sanitiser are needed offshore and heliports now not the non-alcohol which is the norm

A: The supply of alternative materials and hygiene equipment is being addressed by many companies although, as recommended by Health Protection Scotland (HPS), the most effective means to mitigate the risk is frequent, thorough washing of hands and face with hot water and soap.

Q: Is it true that symptoms most commonly appear between 2-10 days but have been recorded up to 24 days? So effectively anyone with the virus could not show a high temperature up to day 24?

A: Covid-19 is a new illness and the timing of clinical symptoms, and many other aspects of the illness, are not completely understood.The incubation period is generally understood to be up to 14 days, but in less common individual circumstances, it may be longer. Exactly how 'less commonly' and exactly how much longer is not known with certainty. It is thought of as 'unusual' for that to happen though. High temperature may be a sign of Covid-19 infection, but it can also be a sign of other medical conditions. Not everyone with Covid-19 infection has a high temperature. Therefore, while a high temperature may be a sign that the person has the virus, it cannot be 'guaranteed' that anyone with a normal temperature (at any time) does not have the virus.Measures such as temperature checks at heliports are an attempt to reduce the possibility of someone with the virus travelling offshore, but they are not a complete assurance that this cannot happen. The best means of preventing anyone getting the virus remains good personal hygiene (frequent handwashing, cover mouth and nose if coughing/sneezing), 'social distancing' (as far as is reasonably practicable), and reporting any symptoms (most commonly fever, cough or shortness of breath) as soon as possible.

Q: What would the procedure be if a diver was to contract Coronavirus in saturation? ie. isolate or pull the whole system?

A: That would be a decision for the diving doctor to advise on.

Q: Have any North Sea operators installed medical isolation module cabins offshore?

A: Not that OGUK is aware of. Existing cabins are fine for isolating personnel if managed correctly.

Q: Are you considering asking for retired medics to assist?

There are medics on standby ready to mobilise at short notice; some companies have also increased the number of medics offshore. There are plans in place for sharing medics across differing companies and a request for the potential use of military medics has also been submitted. Unions also have access to diver medics should the supply situation become acute.

Q: What is the process when there is a suspected COVID case on site?

A: For specific details, you should ask your OIM or safety representative about the arrangements onboard. However, in general, the individual will isolate in their cabin under supervision of the medic and topsides doctor until their removal can be arranged.

Q: Key measures are applied to ensure COVID-19 is not transferred offshore e.g. health declaration forms, temperature monitoring, health screening etc. There has been some confirmed COVID-19 cases offshore and, whilst there are processes in place to transfer such cases onshore, what consistent guidance is being considered for the onward management of that case to ensure the COVID-19 risks are managed onboard? There have been some confirmed COVID-19 cases offshore, how are these lessons being reviewed, shared etc?

A: Government guidance on how to return home if you develop symptoms is available. With social distancing, as long as a symptomatic person covers their face, has good hand hygiene and stays 2m away where possible, it is possible to return home safely.Your employer may make arrangements for your return home. The recently formed OGUK logistics group is looking at a number of safe passage options. In terms of actions for offshore, Health Protection Scotland will soon be releasing guidance for how to deal with such cases. In addition, there is guidance on how to clean/sanitise after a suspected case and how to deal with those who may have been in close contact. Step Change in Safety has also produced a check list covering general precautions for offshore installations.

Q: Why are OGUK not being proactive with this pandemic and produce guidelines that could potentially save lives, stop unnecessary spread? Instead they continue to let companies interpret at their will therefore resulting in many different ways in which they contain spread.

A: The question highlights two things, (1) OGUK can do more to communicate what it is doing and (2) individuals need to take personal accountability in terms of making themselves aware of the various OGUK initiatives that are currently underway.OGUK has proactively developed and are working to a 4-point strategy. It has established and chaired the Pandemic Steering Group which itself has 6 sub-groups covering: aviation, logistics, medical/health, marine, workforce engagement and HSE.

The strategy has delivered or is delivering:Protection and Prevention- Criteria for offshore travel- Screening process – questionnaire- Screening process temperature checks- Testing

Helicopter Transportation- Cat A, B, C & D protocol- Cat C C-med resource- Face coverings (snood)- Heliport arrangements

Offshore Installation Controls- Review of essential work whilst recognising that the final decision MUST remain with the operator. Security of supply and securing the future business (as demanded by Government and Unions) features heavily in the decision process which is always supported by a robust risk assessment.- Minimum manning- Health Protection Scotland guidance co-written with OGUK- SCiS aide memoir question set.

Returning Home- Safe Havens (at all embarkation points)- Safe passage arrangements- Unhindered passage across UK- Management of cases on arrival (Cat C and B)

All these measures have been developed as a result of a proactive drive by OGUK which more than demonstrates OGUK'S commitment to ensure the health of the offshore workforce is maintained.

Q: What additional checks can offshore workers expect to see after their time at home?

  • Temperature screening at heliports
  • Reducing the amount of people in aircrafts to help with social distancing
  • Reduction of people offshore

Q: What precautions are being taken offshore when there is a crew change due in a couple of days and you’re not sure if those coming onshore might be carriers? How would you protect your people going onshore?

A: We are social distancing as best we can in the confines of an offshore environment. There is some good practice across the industry. The main things are good hygiene and social distancing, making sure you stick to government guidance at all times.The missing piece is the testing, once we get that, it will give people more confidence.

Q: When the lockdown restrictions are lifted, what measures will the industry take to reduce risk to our teams? What is the likely approach and what will you as a leadership team address the critical risks?

A: We don’t know what form the lifting will take, so it’s not possible to give definitive answers at this time. However, dutyholders will continue to assess the risk posed and act accordingly to reduce it to ALARP.

Q. Any specific advice for safety on vessels?

A. The Marine Safety Forum (MSF) have produced high-level guidance and considerations for the Marine environment for both vessel Operators and Duty Holders in the face of the current COVID19 Pandemic and can be found here https://www.marinesafetyforum.org/guideline/covid-19-guidance-and-considerations/

Q: What will happen if a worker states that they can’t travel due to being in isolation or in contact with a potential carrier? Will they lose their job, or be put on to SSP?

A: Provided you are eligible for SSP (i.e. you are not self-employed) then you can claim SSP while isolated. The government has made changes to SSP to allow it to be claimed from day 1 as opposed to day 4.

Q: What can you to do assure those concerned about sudden and significant loss of income that they will still be able to pay their bills and mortgages?

A: We are not in a position to guarantee income/earnings however the government and the unions have information on their websites that will assist you in this area.

Q: I am still working offshore but have daily calls to my wife about all the problems she is facing at home; how can you support me?

A: We suggest you approach your employer directly on this matter as many employers provide access to psychological support services for workers and their families, often in the form of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Q: I’m sharing a cabin with a guy who has just returned from Africa – what checks have been done on him before he come offshore in the UK, to make sure I don’t get infected?

A: There is flexibility to allow workers from overseas to be employed offshore however this will be subject to the completion of a satisfactory risk assessment carried out by the employing company and on occasion the Duty Holder.

Q: Due to being in the queue and being in close proximity to people who could have been infected I now need to self-isolate from my family for 7days. As we are on 0-hour contracts we are left with 3 days’ pay instead of 21 days, should I still be paid?

A: The guidance found via this link explains that if you think you have the virus then you need to self-isolate for 7 days. If a member of your household becomes ill then that becomes 14 days. Only your employer can answer what you will be paid as it will depend on what is in your contract. You may be eligible for SSP.

Q: I’ve heard rumours that our rotations might be changing during the pandemic – is this true?

A: Rota patterns are a matter for each Duty Holder to determine. We are aware that given the COVID-19 outbreak and collapse in oil price some companies are looking at all aspects of their business.

Q: On getting to the platform, after being examined and doing the induction we mentioned it to the safety advisor. He told us to bring up to the OIM what we had gone through. We had a meeting with the OIM like all new starts do but was really just fobbed off. I don’t think that oil companies are taking it serious the effects of COVID 19.

A: Routes to raise health and safety concerns have not changed. Raise with supervisor, OIM, Safety Rep, HSE hot-line or Step Change in Safety.

Q: Are we safe or is it my impression that we are being used and life is cheap COVID 19 concerns?

A: Every individual’s wellbeing and safety is valued equally. Extensive work is ongoing to ensure the health and safety of the entire workforce. Actions being taken are based on current HPS advice.

Q: I have been told I am more at risk because I am type 2 diabetic. Now through no fault of my own and because of the Coronavirus they are saying I might not be able to go offshore because I might be high risk so to speak. If this is the case, will I be entitled to 80% pay and not just SSP Pay because this is not my fault. Personally, I cannot survive on just SSP pay alone. Something needs to be done here and quickly. I need to work I cannot afford to be on isolation and Gov SSP pay.

A: As a vulnerable person we need to ensure it would be safe for you to be offshore. Individual cases will need to assess by the employing company in line with Government support packages.

Q: We've had 2 suspected cases of COVID 19 shipped off the platform, but they are still bringing guys onboard and sending guys home. How can this be right if these 2 guys haven’t been tested? This platform should be under lock down for 14 days, but we are not. The hygiene has been shocking as well, no soap in room, no social distancing. They even wanted to put guys back into the same rooms the suspected cases had just left without any deep cleaning.

A: There are clear procedures for managing anyone showing symptoms of possible coronavirus, and this should include isolation of the suspected patient, isolation of close contacts, and cleaning of rooms they have been isolated in or used before that. It is not HPS advice that the entire installation should be quarantined or shut down as a result of a possible coronavirus case. There are also guidelines for identifying ‘vulnerable people’ (such as those with COPD) and individual risk assessment may well result in vulnerable persons being down manned if sufficient risk reduction measures cannot be maintained.

Q: I’ve been down manned abroad, there are no flights home and the government has shut hotels, why is my employing company not looking out for me?

A: This is a matter for the employing company in consultation with UK government.

Q: Due to personnel having to remain on board due to the current health situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, will personnel be further compensated for this and will they also be given a suitable rest period at home (over 3 weeks offshore)?

A: This would be down to the individual employer to discuss and agree with the Employee(s).

Q: With limited positions offshore due to cancelled projects at a normally busy period, will there be any support from the government financially for ad-hoc employees?

A: Employment T&Cs and financial support queries should be addressed to your employer, or if you are a union member your union representative. The government has also published extensive information on this topic at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-bus....

Q: Where do I go / what are my options if I cannot go home because I have been in contact with someone who has had symptoms?

A: OGUK has created a logistics sub-group has been formed which is looking at the concept of safe haven. A number of hotels in the Aberdeen area have been identified and are available. We recognise this is not the only place – also looking at Blackpool, Norwich, Humberside and Inverness. The group is also looking at the concept of a safe passage for safe travel for the worker going from home to offshore and back.

Q: As per the latest COVID-19 update (23/03/20), if people have to self-isolate following local health authority advice, will they still receive 100% of their pay?

Employees must talk with their employing company and also read the government guidelines regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or for extended period options to be moved to furlough status.

Q: With ad-hoc workers being medically screened and the prospect of no work and pay if failing the medical screening, what can be done to support the honesty of declaring to be unfit?

A: Regardless of any financial situation, individuals have a personal responsibility to not return to work if they have symptoms. Screening is also in place which includes completing a questionnaire and any false declaration is putting lives at risk. The current Government furlough scheme provides a safety net for those who may find themselves out of work and more information can be found on the OGUK and Step Change in Safety websites.

Q: What about adhoc workers whose companies will not furlough them? How can they claim the 80% wages?

A: This is not a question that Step Change in Safety can answer directly as we are not your employing company. Matters to do with your employment should be addressed to the HR department in your employing company. We would also point you to the following website that provided information on COVID-19 employment related matters.https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-bus...

Q: Is there a list of Key workers offshore? TV & Government are saying don’t go out or keep distance so why are the oil companies doing the opposite?

A: The Government guidance state that workers involved in the Energy business are classed as critical workers. Therefore, they are permitted to travel to and from work, providing their work cannot be carried out from home and that they follow strict protocol to reduce the risk of contracting and or spreading the virus. Companies are expected to evaluate their own specific business to determine if they can reduce manning levels to as low as reasonably practicable in order to reduce the exposure to those deemed as critical workers.

Q: Could you please advise why companies are failing to halt exploration, drilling and decommissioning projects, despite clear guidance from the government that only essential activity should be continued?

A: At the moment, the Government has classified the entire energy sector as a key sector (i.e. with no differentiation between onshore/offshore, operator/contractor, or different activities). Companies are expected to self- assess the criticality of their operations and if deemed critical to the security or production of energy they must conduct a risk assessment, and involve their work force in ensuring the risks associated with COVID-19 are managed ALARP.

Q: When will I be receiving the letters for “Key Worker” travel?

A: The employee should receive a letter stating their essential worker status before the they embark on their journey from home.

Q. The government talks about key workers and critical services - I am being deemed as not critical yet my colleagues on other installations are. Is there a specific criteria for oil and gas workers or is it down to individual companies?

Each operator is to deem what their minimum manning levels are and who are the critical workers. Companies have carried out risk assessments and identified who they need to work, and these people have been issued with a letter so they can travel to work.

Q. With regard to ad-hoc workers being medically screened and the prospect of no work and pay if they fail the screening, what can be done to support them if they are honestly declaring to be unfit?

A. There may be entitled to sick pay, individuals should seek guidance from their company.Government guidance about furloughing has been published so there is government support there for a wider range of workers. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-bus...Any doubts, contact your trade union or your employer about furlough.

Q: If temp checks are not conclusive and the virus can be undetected for up to 7 days what’s the point of doing this just before the flight in a hotel or the heliport?

A: Pre-flight temperature checks demonstrates that the individual is asymptomatic which means they are viewed as having a low risk of transmitting the virus and therefore suitable to travel offshore.

Q: Queueing for temp checks at the heliport (Bristow’s) people standing in the cold (will this affect their quick temp check?

A: The facilities do become over- populated at peak times however having to remain outside the facility in lower temperatures does not impact on the temperature checks.

Q: Does OGUK/ HSE plan to advise operators to limit people on a normal helicopter crew change? For example, the operator I work for was going to reduce the number of people on a flight so nobody sat next to each other. 2 days later they decided to not do this and to fill the helicopter to full pax.

A: Once checked and proved to be asymptomatic, the chances for spreading the virus even if you have it is very low. In this instances you are classed as a Category A passengers and as such are permitted to travel as per normal in the helicopter. Some operators are choosing to limit pax further but this is something they have chosen to do rather than what they should do in accordance with HPS advice

Q: All that’s changed at the desk are the people are not handling the passports, 2-meter rule can’t work with wand or frisk checks, the baskets for pocket item checks are not cleaned after use is this ALARP?

A: Temperature checks prior entry to heliport, demonstrates that the individual is low risk of transmitting. Pre-flight body searches have to continue to maintain security for the passengers and the offshore facility. Body contact is minimal and with "low risk" passengers thus no need to sanitise equipment after every check.

Q: Will the OGUK flow chart on helicopter travel be shown to the workforce has it been shared?

A: The Passenger Movement Flowchart is displayed on the OGUK website.

Q: Who would meet a category” C” patient on arrival in Aberdeen at the Heliport, and escort them to the relevant medical facility? Will there be additional sanitising stations and products available throughout the rig?

A: The CAT C patient should be accompanied by a medical professional, paramedic, or medic, as CAT C is effectively a classed and treated like a medi-vac.There will be an increase in availability of hand sanitizing facilities however the most effective means of reducing the risk of spread is for everyone to wash their hands frequently with hot water and soap for at least a 20 second period.

Q: How will key personnel get to the heliport now? And then how will people get home? Would hire cars be an option both ways to limit the exposure to public transport?

A: Personnel can use their normal arrangements to get to the heliport and back home. Hire cars can be used if the individual prefers subject to their employers’ travel policy.

Q: Everyone is sitting on the same seat that’s not being cleaned; the person doing the checks is wearing no PPE why? People have been assessed with high temps then everything carry’s on as before this can’t be right!

A: This is still work in progress and everyone involved is working to improve protocols, individuals who fail the screening test are not permitted to enter heliport.

Q: Car parks near the heliport are closing thus having to go on a bus and more potential exposure

A: Aberdeen Airport understands the importance of ensuring car parking facilities remain open. Car parking facilities with offshore rates are being maintained at the main airport terminal which will require coach/bus transfer to the Babcock facility. This journey is not viewed as increasing the risk of transmission to members of the public or those travelling offshore.

Q: What personal care or PPE should workers be using to get to the hotel and heliport to prevent potential exposure?

A: The industry continues to follow Health Protection Scotland’s advice which states that the use of PPE (face masks) is not viewed as a necessary measure when travelling to and from hotels or heliports. Our advice is to continue to practice regular social distancing and frequent washing of hands and face as per published guidance.

Q. How can social distancing be practised whilst in the small confines of a helicopter?

A. While some operators are now reducing PAX on flights, others are still following IOGP advice which is backed up by HSP i.e. PAX reduction is not required when combined with questionnaire, temperature checking and face covering. HSP’s assertion is that an asymptomatic individual presents a very low risk of transmitting the virus.

Q: If the virus is contracted offshore what happens if and when brought onshore, how do people get home?

A: The passenger will arrive back at one of the designated heliports, they will be escorted through the heliport, bypassing normal security and baggage collection, where they will be met by a member of the employing company or a representative of the oil company who will work with the companies medical provider to make arrangements for their onward journey.

Q: I'm concerned about travelling offshore. At the heliport there are processes in place to keep people 2 metres apart, but then we all go and sit on a Helicopter with a dozen people if not more. How is this keeping in line with government procedures?

A: Once checked and proved to be asymptomatic, the chances for spreading the virus even if you have it is very low. In this instances you are classed as a Category A passengers and as such are permitted to travel as per normal in the helicopter. Some operators are choosing to limit pax further but this is something they have chosen to do rather than what they should do in accordance with HPS advice.

Q. Now that we are seeing some companies reducing passengers onboard, is it a likelihood that OGUK will create a policy mandate for the rest of the industry on flight numbers?

A. Advice from Health Protection Scotland and the Government has been followed. We are looking at some kit which wouldn’t have an impact on the NHS, but this needs to be assessed and tested at one of the HUET training centre and discussions are to be had with the manufacturer.

Q. I’m an offshore worker - when will I receive my letter confirming my key worker status to travel to Aberdeen?

A. There is a letter on OGUK letter headed paper which can be downloaded from OGUK website. The police have been made aware of this in Scotland and England. The letter can be used by anyone. You can screenshot it and have a copy on your phone.

Q. If a person is asymptomatic and shows no major signs of high temperature etc but has a persistent cough, will they be stopped from going offshore?

A. It has to be a new cough and there are other symptoms you have to look out for.

Q. What is the process for sterilization of survival suits on returning?

A. Standard O&G flights:
Suits are returned at arrivals, loaded into colour coded bins and taken to a company where they are disinfected and examined for any damage/worn seals etc. After every 3 flights they are laundered.

Suspected cases - CMED flights:
Paramedic Suits - goes through the decontamination unit whilst still being worn and the suit is removed and hung up to dry. Once dry, the suit is placed into a colour coded bin and held for 72 hours (bin is dated and sealed). The bins are then transported to a laundering company and held for a further 24 hours, the bins are then laundered and inspected prior to being returned into the system.
Passenger suits - They are bagged and placed into colour coded bins (dated and sealed), held for the 72 hours, when the bins are transported to laundering company and held for a further 24 hours. The suits are then laundered and inspected prior to being returned into the system.

Q. Is there any guidance for shoulder measurers to measure personnel in this COVID19 situation due to social distancing?

A. Due to social distancing there will be no shoulder measurements carried out. As per the normal process, passengers due for re-measurement will automatically revert to XBR.

Q: During pre-screening we still had to go in the small room sit in the same chair as the previous person but if they did have the symptoms should that not have been fully cleaned and disinfected?

A: Providers of the service are being told to review their current protocols.

Q: I know some companies are supplying COVID 19 testing for all their workers to keep them as safe as possible. As a matter of urgency, could the offshore industry do the same?

A: There are currently two tests: Swab test - looks for the antigen and helps identify whether an individual has CoviD-19. Currently prioritised for NHS workers. Finger prick - currently no tests have been validated by the UK Government but once they do, we will review options and look to ensure that they are used in the most effective way to protect the offshore workforce.

Q: Is it acceptable that the industry has not agreed a standard approach for testing at this time?

A. Protocols are being developed to cover two types of tests – antigen and antibody. The finger prick tests have not been validated by the Government yet. These protocols will be standard and swab tests are being used by some operators. We are looking at what we can do when someone is home prior to going offshore so they can be swab tested and get the results before travelling, knowing they do not have COVID-19. Those protocols are currently being developed.

Q. Are there any platforms screening all offshore workers daily for temperature testing and if so, are they demonstrating a benefit?

Some operators are carrying out temperature checks and in addition the helicopter operators have asked that before they go back to the beach, they are temperature checked as well. We do not have information on whether this is beneficial.

Q: If the Covid-19 test was to come back positive where do we go? What is the plan in place? For example, would people who have to use public transport to commute be sent home having to use public transport and potentially pass on the virus?

A: If you have symptoms, then as a minimum you should follow the government advice which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus Your employer may have made alternate arrangement, which you should discuss with them. Typically, we are finding that for Cat C people (suspected symptoms) the individual is taken home. OGUK have set up a logistics group that is looking at all safe passage options.

Q: With regards to the key short, medium and longer term steps that an operator Duty Holder would have to take after a crew member was tested onshore and it was confirmed as a positive test for COVID-19 - does OGUK / Step Change in Safety have a document process e.g. flow chart that would describes the key steps to take by the operator, something similar to OGUK / CAA Categorisation for transport of helicopter passengers as suspected with COVID-19?

A: If the person was onboard the installation at the time, then the dutyholder will already have assessed the rest of the crew to ensure anyone thought to be at risk of infection has been advised accordingly (Cat B).Government advice is already available for next steps, which should be followed. Your employer will be in touch to ensure that normal sickness absence and return to work processes are followed (although likely avoiding face-to-face interaction as per current advice)

Q. Where Covid-19 testing is being done, are the results of these tests being recorded in Vantage or anywhere else?

A. This is personal medical data and as such would not be recorded in Vantage. The industry will be working on a plan for capturing such details as it introduces screening tests. However, this is work in progress.

Q: How many will it take to isolate a rig then for how long, with limited medical care if any?

A: There may be examples of individuals requesting self- isolation as they will get better care on the installation. General policy however is to remove suspected cases.

Q: What checks are getting done offshore?

A: Offshore Medics will undertake monitoring activities as and when required in accordance with HPS guidelines.

Q: I’m currently offshore in Norway for an Aberdeen-based company. I’m due home to the UK in 5 days. Do I have to isolate from my wife and children when I return home?

A: If an individual has no symptoms of coronavirus and has not been in contact with a known case of coronavirus, they are a normal member of the public and can return home to their family and then follow UK government advice about social distancing.

Q: Why are the ones cleaning the rigs getting down manned or paid off are they not key to preventing the spread of COVID 19?

A: This issue has been noted and operators have been instructed to maintain adequate numbers of stewards/stewardesses to respond to the heightened sanitisation requirements.

Q: How would the Offshore Stewards go about sanitising a room after a suspected worker has occupied it?

A: De-contamination / sanitisation procedures already exist within the Catering Sector, with applicable training having been carried out. Cabins would be sanitised in accordance with these procedures, similar as they would be for an example of Norovirus etc.

Q: What additional hygiene activities will be done in offshore public areas and food preparation areas?

A: There is already an increased focus on touch points such as handles, handrails and public areas. There will be a change in how food will be served which will see self service facilities being removed such as buffet type arrangements and salad bars. There will also be a heightened aproach to reduce the volume of workers using the facilities at the same time.

Q: Will the laundry be treated differently?

A: It is already well understood that the transmission of the virus via clothing and bedding is minimal, despite this there may be a change in how laundry is managed and distributed to reduce the potential for contact between workers.

Q: What precautions are offshore implementing to prevent COVID-19 contamination from offshore materials contaminating onshore personnel?

A: They are following the Government advice relating to decontamination of non-healthcare settings.

Q: Will we be provided with masks for the flight home? I’ve not seen my family for over a week now, but now I am in amongst all these guys who have travelled from all over to come together.

A: Once checked and proved to be asymptomatic, the chances for spreading the virus even if you have it is very low. In addition, HPS/PHE state that there is limited benefit in wearing a face mask. Currently Category A passengers have no requirement to wear masks onboard the helicopter therefore it is not a requirement.

Q: Additional stewards are being sent offshore to do deep cleaning, what extra precautions/PPE should they have?

A: This would be in accordance with their employing company's risk assessment. There is also comprehensive advice from HPS.

Q: Will the offshore stewards need to wear additional screening PPE?

A: The existing levels of PPE identified in existing procedures for cleaning cabins have, and are being, reviewed to ensure they are sufficiently robust, where opportunities to improve are identified they will be adopted.

Q: I would like to know if the ear defenders that we share are being wiped down

A: Ear defenders and other shared PPE are being sanitised between repeat use.

Q: If Emergency Response Team (ERT) must wear communal PPE, as in boots jackets, flash hoods etc, will these be washed & sanitised immediately & allocated to individuals? Can these be placed in a sealed bag so, if not worn, back to backs can be assured that this PPE is suitably sanitised and ready for use?

A: Companies are sanitising shared PPE and response equipment such as heli-team and fire-fighting team equipment. We would also note that if the period between use of such PPE and equipment is likely to be longer than 72 hours then there is no known risk of transfer of virus.

Q: Are all offshore assets following the Safety rep and Safety Committee regulations SI-971 Reg 23 c ii & iii by consulting the safety reps in good time with the measures being put into place which may substantially affect the health of the workforce and the consequences of those introduction.

A: The SI-971 regulations are still in force, should you think they are not being adhered to you should approach your ESR or the OIM.

Q: What is furloughed and will it happen to me?

A: Furlough refers to the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is being introduced to try and minimise job losses by supporting employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus. We are not in a position to confirm who it will be applied to as this is down to the employing company.

Q: Two guys at my site were bedded down with ‘back’ problems, but I don’t believe that’s the real reason – if I am at risk of infection from people onboard, why won’t the OIM tell me?

A: Routes to raise health and safety concerns have not changed. You should contact your supervisor, OIM, Elected Safety Rep, or use the HSE hotline to report your concern.

Q: Co-ordination between the government instructions and offshore working. This is concerning vulnerable family members and exposure either on or offshore and the isolation times.

A: The current Health Protection Scotland (HPS) guidance is being followed and in some cases going beyond this. This is the reason for some inconsistencies as operators have their own global procedures to follow.

Q. Is there an absolute limit on how long someone can spend offshore if they are having to work additional days to cover gaps?

Apart from the normal allowances for staying on due to weather, the governing body for extending time offshore would be your working time regulations. There is also your safety case which is based on a point of time that your crew is normally working offshore. Fatigue and stress levels need to be monitored. This needs to be risk assessed and safety reps and HSE must be consulted. It is important that operators assess the risks while controlling major accident hazards and complying with their safety cases.

Q. You described that a safety rep should flag up and request meetings regarding COVID-19 with the OIMs. What would your advice be on how to approach your ‘not so approachable OIM’ on this matter?

A. OIMs have a moral and legal obligation to ensure they are consulting appropriately with their SI971 reps. Ultimately the OIMs’ key driver doing that job is to ensure people stay safe. There are avenues that can be utilised by the regulators if that is not the case. The HSE can be contacted by phone or email - anything that comes in from safety reps will be dealt with.

Q. What additional precautions are required whilst carrying out thorough examination and testing of lifting and pressure equipment during the coronavirus outbreak?

A. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have created guidance notes for duty holders and inspectors for the examination and testing of lifting and pressure equipment during the COVID-19 outbreak and can be downloaded from the following link: www.hse.gov.uk/news/assets/doc...

Q: My survival refresher expires next month, can I get an extension/exemption? What do I need to do to prove it?

A: Both survival and medical certs have been extended subject to certain conditions which are available via OPITO website. https://www.opito.com/covid19

Also see: https://training.aisgroup.co.uk/article-details/453/covid-19-awarding-body-certificate-expiry-updates

Q: Will Offshore Stewards need additional training?

A: contaminating cabins have, are being, reviewed to ensure they are sufficiently robust, where opportunities to improve are identified they will be adopted.

Q: For ones who are adding more offshore staff at this time, will there be more support staff to allow staggered breaks and avoid mess hall congestion and more people able to work on night shift?

A: This issue has been noted and operators have been instructed to maintain adequate numbers of stewards/stewardesses to respond to the heightened sanitisation requirements.

Q: What’s being done about only one medic offshore as they are more than likely come into contact with carriers of C/V 19. If they go down or have to isolate and a chopper can’t get out for various reasons, there is no medic this could have serious consequences.

A: This eventuality has been considered and Duty Holders will have a contingency plan for that as part of normal operations.

Q: What happens if the Camp Boss / Head Chef or other single resource has to isolate?

A: Procedures are in place to respond to this eventuality which ensure that normal service can be maintained until such times a suitably qualified replacement can be mobilised.

Q: I was suddenly down manned last week without proper explanation, why won’t my company tell me what’s going on?

A: We are unable to comment on your specific situation however there is a large amount of information provided by Step Change and OGUK on this topic that we would refer you to.

USEFUL LINKS

Latest News

Read all of the latest news from Step Change in Safety in our newsroom.

Newsletter

Be the first to receive news and alerts by signing up for our monthly newsletter round-up

Become a Member