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Newfoundland and Labrador offshore industry working to flatten COVID-19 curve

The following text was excerpted from the media outlet cited on March 24, 2020 and is provided to Noia members for information purposes only. Any opinion expressed therein is neither attributable to nor endorsed by Noia.

From The Telegram

Conversations fluid as industry addresses health and safety

The oil and gas industry is reducing the number of people working on offshore rigs to aid the health and safety of those who will remain on them in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, the C-NLOPB enacted an order requiring operators to only keep employees “essential to the safe and environmentally responsible operations of offshore oil and gas facilities” on site, unless otherwise approved by the regulator’s chief safety officer.

“We’re into an unprecedented and quickly evolving health and safety challenge for the offshore industry — the same as it is for the rest of our community and the whole world,” Scott Tessier, CEO for the C-NLOPB, told The Telegram. “Our mission right now through our regulatory oversight is to help flatten the curve.”

He said the order issued Sunday offers some clarity to companies operating offshore when it comes to meeting the needs of public health directives from the provincial government. Tessier said the essential personnel would include additional cleaners as needed to ensure industrial hygiene is well respected, as well as those tasked with routine maintenance. Non-essential workers would generally be classified as anyone who can manage to do their work off-site, like resource management personnel.

Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada director for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, noted social distancing measures have already been put in place at these sites in relation to meetings, meals in common spaces and food handling. In the case of sharing rooms, workers will only share them with personnel on opposite shifts, with rooms cleaned between shifts. Barnes said if anyone does show symptoms, they can be isolated and returned home as needed.

Barnes also acknowledged a special exemption order put in place by the provincial government allowing personnel involved in transporting workers or those deemed essential to offshore activity to come from another province or country without needing to self-isolate for 14 days.

“Industry is managing its business to minimize the use of the exemptions,” he said. “There are no plans at this time to send anyone offshore who hasn’t followed the 14-day isolation quarantine. The exemption is in place for industry to use, but we will only be using it for exceptional circumstance.”

At the heliport, nurses currently screen offshore workers by asking a series of questions and performing temperature checks. These measures have been in place since early March.

“We’re doing everything we can within our regulatory authority to make sure that offshore workers are protected and to make sure the companies themselves have all the plans and procedures in place that are necessary to implement the measures that are being directed by public health,” Tessier said.

Barnes added conversations are consistently happening and action will be taken if it becomes apparent further changes are needed.

“These conversations are happening extremely frequently,” he said, adding the measures in place so far for the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore industry are similar to jurisdictions like Norway and the United Kingdom. “It’s a hugely fluid situation, and our industry, the provincial government, the chief medical officer and the (C-NLOPB) are in contact daily to discuss exemptions or any other requirements and issues. There could be more exemptions, there could be more restrictions. There could be different things as the days and weeks progress.”