Offshore oil installations have continued to operate through government lockdowns, with workers at Indian oil-producing companies extending stays offshore by as much as 2-3 times from the norm of 14 days. But, there are fresh alarm bells, with 31 employees out of 91 at an ONGC offshore facility near Mumbai testing positive for Covid-19 this week.
What precautions are oil producers taking to protect their workers, especially on facilities where social distancing is a problem?
According to sources at ONGC, the company tests all incoming workers before sending them to work on offshore sites. Employees working offshore are also being provided with face shields, masks and hand sanitizers in addition to the protective equipment usually issued to them including gloves and helmets, said and ONGC official who wished to remain anonymous.
ONGC is also following “strict standard operating procedures” which are enforced by marshals both offshore and even at their offices onshore, said the official.
International oil majors such as British petroleum have extended rotations for workers as well as reduced occupancy in rooms at offshore sites to allow for social distancing and to protect their employees.
The official noted that during the lockdown, some ONGC workers had worked offshore for 60 days against the norm of 14 days and the company was trying to reduce occupancy in rooms at offshore sites “as much as possible”.
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What are the constraints in maintaining social distancing at offshore sites?
The ONGC official said it was not possible to maintain social distancing during some repair and maintenance operations at offshore oil installations as people need to be in close contact in line with safety protocols. ONGC had previously shut operations at two rigs in Mumbai offshore after 54 employees tested positive for Covid-19, including one employee who died due to the disease.
What treatment is available for employees who have symptoms?
“When an employee complains about symptoms, doctors are sent to offshore platforms to conduct testing,” said the official, adding that any employee who contracts the virus would be brought back onshore and given “the best medical treatment available,” as the company had tie ups with hospitals in the area.
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