Shell's COVID-19 Cases Hint at a Larger Offshore Problem
Recently, Shell revealed that it had evacuated workers because of a COVID-19 outbreak on one of its seven oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The company airlifted nine workers to shore after they showed symptoms of contracting the coronavirus. According to ABC, Shell started testing its workers for the virus before sending them to rigs on May 20. The first infection of a Gulf of Mexico Shell platform was confirmed on May 23.
Shell released the following statement:
“Shell can confirm that five individuals working on a Shell-operated platform in the US Gulf of Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, there are four Persons Under Investigation. Of these nine total individuals, seven were evacuated to onshore medical facilities where they were tested. One of those tested was held in observation for 24 hours before being released. All others were released without hospitalization. The remaining two PUIs on the platform were isolated before being evacuated this afternoon for testing at an onshore medical facility. Personnel on Board (POB) is being reduced to minimum staffing levels.”
How Many Offshore Workers Have Contracted COVID-19?
While Shell maintains that the nine workers are the first it has encountered, the public has no way of confirming this statement. In fact, no offshore company has oversight for how they are handling the COVID-19 crisis. In April, the US Coast Guard stop reporting how many offshore workers contracted the virus and government regulators gave companies the authority to handle the crisis as they see fit. Safety advocates worry this has created a lack of accountability and transparency in the industry.
In Brazil, the offshore industry has seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases. According to reports, at least six companies have had significant outbreaks of the virus off the shore of the South American nation. Oil regulators ANP had registered 544 coronavirus cases as of May 26. While American safety groups have registered about 99 cases of the virus on Gulf rigs, many are worried that the numbers aren’t a complete picture of what offshore workers are facing.
On oil rigs, workers share equipment, living spaces, and spend a significant amount of time close to each other. In other words: an oil rig is a perfect environment for the coronavirus to spread. Experts have noted that the offshore industry has a similar potential for a mass outbreak as the mining and meatpacking industries—two sectors that have had major outbreaks across the nation.
Without official reporting, it could be some time before we know how many offshore workers have contracted or will contract the coronavirus.
If you believe you were sick because of exposure to COVID-19, call our firm at (888) 346-5024 for a free consultation. We’re ready to listen to your story and help you decide what to do next.