OSHA COVID Guidance for Oil and Gas Workers

The oil and gas industry, and all of its sub-industries, needs to consider the varying job functions and associated risks for workers contracting COVID-19. OSHA’s guidance page helps employers understand the job risks, cautions and appropriate protocol for protecting workers from the virus.

Employers in all industries should refer to OSHA’s general interim guidance for workers and employers at increased risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19. However, each industry needs to take a deep dive look into the risks associated with its particular job tasks and how the industry puts workers at risk.

First and foremost, employers need to remain aware of changing outbreak conditions, including the spread of the virus and testing availability in their communities and then implement infection measures. Refer to Guidelines for Opening Up America Again and OSHA’s Guidance on Returning to Work, but also evaluate industry-specific risks.

Risk assessment starts with a hierarchy of risk levels. Employers should assess the hazards that each worker faces in his or her job, evaluate the risk of exposure and implement a hierarchy of controls to prevent exposures.

OSHA’s occupational exposure risk pyramid for oil and gas workers can serve as a guide to employers in this sector. It labels the following risk levels and job tasks associated with the tasks, according to OSHA:

Lower (caution)

  • Oil and gas drilling, servicing, production, distribution, and/or processing tasks that do not require frequent close contact with other coworkers, contractors, customers, or the public.
  • Performing duties in non-public areas of oil and gas production and/or processing facilities, away from other workers or the public.

Note: For activities in the lower (caution) risk category, OSHA’s Interim Guidance for Workers and Employers of Workers at Lower Risk of Exposure may be most appropriate

Medium

  • Oil and gas drilling, servicing, production, distribution, and/or processing tasks that require frequent close contact (within six feet) with coworkers, contractors, customers, or the general public. Control rooms, trailers and doghouses are frequent high-traffic areas.
  • Traveling within facilities or between facilities when workers must share vehicles.

Note: Working and living together in close quarters where social distancing is not always feasible may increase exposure risk compared to other activities in this category.

High

  • Category not applicable for most anticipated work tasks.

Note: Most oil and gas drilling, servicing, production, distribution, and/or processing tasks are associated with lower or medium exposure risks; see the other columns of this chart.

Very High

  • Category not applicable for most anticipated work tasks.

Note: Most oil and gas drilling, servicing, production, distribution, and/or processing tasks are associated with lower or medium exposure risks; see the other columns of this chart.

Further guidance for employers and workers in oil and gas, including refinery, operations can be found in the Interim Guidance from CDC and OSHA for Manufacturing Workers and Employers. The manufacturing guidance applies generally to all types of manufacturing operations, which sometimes include the oil and gas industry.

Engineering Controls

There are a number of engineering controls that employers can use to protect workers from COVID-19. To start, workers should always be social distancing and maintaining six feet from one another—this may require changes in production practices or a reconfiguration of work stations.

Ensure that communal work environments (like control rooms, jobsite trailers etc.)—so that workers are spaced at least six feet apart—and sanitize the area regularly.

Use physical barriers, like strip curtains, plexiglass or other dividers, to separate workers from each other if doing so does not create additional safety hazards.

Make sure indoor work areas are well ventilated, as ventilation indoors helps reduce risk of exposure.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are just as crucial to eliminating the risk of exposure. Employers should do the following, if possible, to promote social distancing:

  • Stagger workers’ arrival and departure times to avoid congregations of workers in parking areas, locker and shower rooms, smoking areas, control rooms and other common areas.
  • Encourage s single-file movement with six feet between each worker through the facility/site, where possible.
  • Provide visual cues (e.g., floor markings, signs) as a reminder to workers to maintain social distancing (six feet).
  • Designate workers to monitor and facilitate distancing.
  • Limit the number of personnel allowed in doghouses, control rooms, and other operating areas.
  • Limit meeting sizes and/or hold meetings virtually or using social distancing outside, if possible.
  • Stagger break times or provide temporary break areas, including for water breaks, and restrooms to avoid groups of workers gathering during breaks. Workers should maintain at least six feet of distance from others at all times, including on breaks.
  • Remove or rearrange chairs and tables, or add partitions to tables, in break rooms, control rooms, and other areas workers may frequent to increase worker separation. Identify alternative areas to accommodate overflow volume, such as training and conference rooms, or using outside tents for shaded break and lunch areas.

Employers should also provide a system for employees to safely alert their supervisors if they are experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have had recent contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case. This precaution means employers need to provide training on COVID-19-related safety protocols for workers.

Lastly, encourage hand hygiene. Social distancing, wearing masks and reporting symptoms are all important parts of the path to reducing exposure, but a person’s individual hygiene is crucial for keeping workers healthy.

See the OSHA page for more recommendations on PPE, engineering and administrative controls for the oil and gas industry.

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - July August 2020

    July August 2020

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