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IADC urges international authorities to adopt IMO pandemic recommendations

IADC recently partnered with several trade organizations on a document urging national authorities to recognize a Circular Letter from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The document calls for personnel in the offshore energy sector to be designated as “key personnel” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recommendations in Circular Letter No.4204/Add.13, which was issued by IMO in consultation with IADC, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC), International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP), International Support Vessel Owners Association (ISOA) and the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), detail recommendations for facilitating movement of key workers to and from their places of work on all vessels and installations engaged in offshore energy sector activities.

It also addresses the needs of all offshore workers engaged in activities that comprise the offshore energy sector and recommends that such personnel be designated as key workers, noting that the need for efficient crew changes is vital to ensuring the safety of offshore workers and the environment.

The letter also asks that governments review IMO Circular Letter 4204/Add.14, which sets out a recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The protocols, developed by IADC, IAGC, IOGP, IMCA and ISOA, are supported by the IMO Secretary-General, who has urged Member States to implement these critical measures. One of the key recommendations contained within these protocols requests that governments give serious consideration to exempting seafarers and offshore energy sector personnel from any isolation or quarantine measures that might be applicable to other passengers arriving by aircraft from other countries.

US House Committee on Natural Resources considers program for plugging abandoned oil and gas wells

On 1 June, the US House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hosted a virtual forum, “Reclaiming Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells – Creating Jobs and Protecting the Environment by Cleaning Up and Plugging Wells.” The discussion centered on the desire to assist laid off oil and gas workers with a program that focuses on plugging orphaned oil and gas wells.

In a letter to subcommittee chairman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), IADC noted that while such a program would help in providing employment for around 1,300 people, that number represents less than 1% of those who are currently out of work. The work is also temporary in nature and does not provide a long-term solution in assisting the tens of thousands of oil and gas workers who are currently unemployed. The letter also points out that equipment used by drilling contractors is not what is needed to plug an abandoned well and, therefore, the program would not help drilling contractors.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority releases 2019 annual report

The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) Norway recently announced the release of its 2019 Annual Report. Highlights include reduced major incident potential in 2019; better industry understanding of the PSA’s enforcement role, including use of relevant compliance initiatives; and the importance of worker participation and inter-party collaboration.

International organizations urge action to address crew change issues during COVID-19

A joint statement was issued in late May to enlist the support of governments for the facilitation of crew changes in ports and airports in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement was released jointly by the Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Director-General of the International Labour Organization and the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The statement noted that a large number of seafarers are having to extend their service onboard ships after many months at sea, creating an unsustainable situation.

All IMO Member States were strongly encouraged to take urgent action to address this issue and to bring this to the attention of health, immigration, border control and maritime authorities, at both national and local levels.

OSHA issues revised enforcement policies related to COVID-19 employee protections

In May, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees with respect to COVID-19.

First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. Secondly, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus.

Under the new policy, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

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