The UK’s workplace safety watchdog has accused two offshore energy sector firms of putting crew at “serious risk” of catching Covid-19.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) claimed manning levels on the JB-115 jack-up barge increased even though it was “obvious” the team of stewards was “not coping” with the cleaning workload.
JB-115 is being used to provide accommodation at exploration and production firm Spirit Energy’s South Morecambe field in the East Irish Sea.
Crew members are preparing the DP3 and DP4 normally unmanned installations for removal next year.
HSE served Jack-Up Barge (J-UB), the Dutch firm which owns the vessel, and Spirit Energy with prohibition notices on September 8 and 9.
Spirit Energy said the number of stewards on-board and the frequency of cabin cleaning had been increased and the prohibition notice was lifted soon after it was served.
In its notice, the watchdog claimed the cleaning regime on the vessel was “insufficient” and warned of a “risk of serious personal injury from exposure to the virus”.
HSE’s inspector alleged the five stewards were struggling to keep up one morning when there were 63 people on board.
But the personnel on board (POB) number increased twice during the day and had risen to 76 by evening.
POB was due to increase to a maximum of 95 the following week.
In single-occupancy cabins, bathrooms were being cleaned daily and surfaces every other day.
Cleaning was taking place once a day, in the evening, in shared cabins.
HSE said cleaning on the morning and evening prior to occupancy was the “minimum standard”.
However, it was “obvious” the team of stewards would be unable to cover more frequent accommodation cleaning, according to the inspector.
HSE added: “This could lead to cabins not undergoing the correct standard of cleaning, therefore leading to contaminated surfaces potentially transmitting the virus.
“The camp boss outlined his concern, had previously raised this with the offshore installation manager more than two weeks ago.
“There has been no increase in number of stewards and worse the increase in POB is accelerating so even more persons are liable to be potentially exposed to the virus.”
Neil McCulloch, EVP, technical and operated assets at Spirit Energy, said: “Following the HSE inspection on the JB115 jack-up barge, we were in close contact both with the regulator and our contractor partners to respond to the concern raised.
“Within days of the prohibition notice being served, the HSE was satisfied that the right measures had been put in place and its concern had been met, and so lifted the notice.
“Nothing comes before the safety of our teams and of our supply chain partners, whether that be in the face of the established hazards our industry faces or new and emerging risks like Covid-19.
“In this case we have learned and responded quickly, and are now looking forward to a safe and successful campaign with our contractor colleagues.”
J-UB has been contacted for comment.
Unions raised concerns that increases in manning levels to tackle maintenance backlogs would undermine barriers put in place to stop Covid-19 spreading.