An offshore safety boss has blamed a local outbreak in Aberdeen for a rise in the number of North Sea workers that have come into contact with people showing symptoms of Covid-19.
Trevor Stapleton, health and safety director at Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), revealed there was an increase in ‘category B’ cases last week.
That involves an asymptomatic worker, who has been in contact with someone displaying symptoms of the virus, being removed from an offshore installation to self-isolate at home.
But he’s “confident” it’s just a short term spike and said they’ll be monitoring statistics closely over the next couple of weeks to ensure it levels off.
Health classifications were drawn up by OGUK’s pandemic steering group at the beginning of the pandemic to establish guidelines for safe helicopter travel offshore.
They range from category A, a worker who is asymptomatic, to category D, a worker with life-threatening symptoms.
It’s now a week since the Granite City was placed under local lockdown following an outbreak of Covid-19 at the Hawthorn Bar in the city’s Holburn Street on July 26.
Mr Stapleton said: “We did see an increase in suspected cases of Covid-19 offshore last week but we’re confident that was because of the hoo-ha in Aberdeen.
“People suddenly get a bit nervous and say ‘I think I might have been next to that person’. We don’t then interrogate them, our main priority is just to get them safely off the installation – a category B classification.
“We’ll look at it again this time next week to make sure that’s levelled off and we’ll begin to monitor that figure more closely. At the moment I’m relaxed about it. The focus of the Aberdeen lockdown has been on hospitality and travel restrictions for leisure which I don’t see as being too closely linked to the offshore workforce.”
The first minister is due to give an update later today on current lockdown restrictions in Aberdeen.
But the continued uncertainty has had little effect on the oil and gas industry which has been operating as usual, albeit on a reduced manning level, for the duration of the pandemic.
Mr Stapleton said: “The localised lockdown doesn’t pose any real concerns. What we’ll be looking at in the pandemic steering group is what further assessment should we be applying for someone that may be coming from a place where a regional outbreak has occurred.
“We’ve already had that in the early days of the pandemic with category 1 and category 2 countries. It was left to operators to undertake their own risk assessment on people travelling from different countries.
“That disappeared when the UK became a category 1 country but, nevertheless, we have the framework for doing these risk assessments and it’s something that we’ll take account of as we go through the coming months.”