Are Offshore Workers on Their Own During COVID-19?

Arnold & Itkin

There’s a lot to worry about if you’re an offshore worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. As if falling oil prices weren’t enough stress for offshore oil rig workers, they now must face the COVID-19 pandemic on vessels where space is rare. Close quarters, long work hours, and being far from medical care are just a few of the challenges that make a virus outbreak on an offshore oil rig worrisome.

“It’s scary,” one BP employee said. “You’re in close confinement. It’s like a cruise ship except you’re not going anywhere.”

As oil companies send out press releases praising their response to the situation, there is a considerable lack of proof that they’re controlling the situation. Now, some experts are worried that offshore workers could be facing a similar situation that others on cruise ships experienced during coronavirus outbreaks.

What Is Protecting Offshore Workers?

Officially? Nothing is protecting offshore crewmembers from outbreaks. The federal government has provided companies with the authority to handle the pandemic how they see fit. In other words, there’s no requirement for testing, sending sick workers home, or making sure new workers are not sick. While this hands-off approach might be an attempt to give oil companies freedom during an economically challenging time, it provides no reassurance for workers.

To make matters worse, the US Coast Guard has declined to provide updated numbers for how many offshore workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since early April when it confirmed 26 cases spread over 7 platforms had been confirmed. This means that we don’t have updated numbers from a time when COVID-19 cases were still spiking throughout the nation and globally.

Globally, offshore drilling and exploration workers have faced a difficult situation. In Brazel, hundreds of offshore workers have tested positive for COVID-19. In one instance, a Petrobras outbreak caused 42 of 45 workers to test positive for the virus. In the North Sea, hundreds of workers were evacuated after an outbreak. These events happened weeks after the US Coast Guard updated numbers.

Workers Deserve Safety

With a lack of guidelines for companies to follow, workers are left to rely on luck and the decision making abilities of their employers. “It all depends where you’re working,” said one assistant driller. “If you work for a good company, they look after you. If you don’t, you’re on your own.”

At Arnold & Itkin, we’ve had to step in too often to make sure workers receive the treatment they deserve after a company neglected their safety. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we wish we could say that we’ve seen companies make the right decision. Instead, we have to say the opposite—our clients turn to us when their company has done nothing but try to escape responsibility for negligence.

If you’ve suffered because of COVID-19, call Arnold & Itkin today at (888) 346-5024. Our offshore drilling COVID-19 lawyers are ready to help you discover your options at no cost.

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