Tips for how to keep working in the oilfield in the age of COVID-19: service rigs

Oxbow – Shirley Galloway’s experience in occupational health & industrial hygiene is particularly significant now, at a time when Premier Scott Moe says we are in a “social distancing economy,” as he did on March 25.

On that day, the province announced its list of critical and allowable services in the province during the COVID-19 outbreak. The oil and gas sector, and its supply chain, is one of them.

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So how do you accomplish oilfield work while minimizing the possibility of the spread of contagion? Pipeline Newswill be checking in with Galloway from time-to-time for advice on how to continue working in the oilpatch. This time we look at service rigs.

Galloway is a registered nurse with over 30 years experience, particularly in the oil and gas industry. She used to also carry the designation of nurse practitioner for 13 years, but stopped practicing under that designation many years ago when her kids were still young. These days, she’s the president and chief occupational health advisor of Noble HSSE in Oxbow. Recently she’s been working on business risk assessments for clients with regards to COVID-19, in terms of what it is that they do, how many people does it take, and what can be done. She is also working on infection control and cleaning practices for many businesses.

Noble HSSE closed its doors to the public the previous week, but continues to work on projects, safe practices, as well as online training. They are feeling a similar impact as other businesses, as they had a significant amount of training and testing lined up for clients. They are currently running with their office and safety staff working from home. Their paramedics are still out in the field, Galloway said. Mental health and counselling are going strong. Some of their staff who are nurses, are working at hospitals, she noted. “We are available for consultation at anytime.”

“Even if this lasts nine months to a year, we can survive that,” Galloway said.

With regards to service rig operation, Galloway noted a lot of units are in for road bans, when spring servicing is typically done. However, having 30 or so people working in one place on their rigs may be problematic, as the province announced on March 25 restrictions of gatherings of more than 10 people.

Before even going out to work, Galloway recommends instituting a screening process and form. Make sure the worker hasn’t travelled, and has not been in contact with anyone who has any symptoms. Ensure they are feeling well, have no fever, and no cough, she said.

Leather gloves, common on service rigs, won’t cut it when it comes to preventing the spread of viruses. “You can’t keep those clean,” she said. Nitrile gloves are recommended.

The doghouse is in the doghouse, as it were. The idea of a crew gathering in the doghouse is a bad one. “The doghouse should be off limits,” she said, noting it is impossible to be “socially distant,” or as she puts it, “physically distant,” in the confines of a doghouse.

Instead, workers should eat lunch singly, or in their vehicles. If they need to use the microwave in the doghouse to warm up lunch, do so one at a time, and then spray down any surface touched with a 1:10 bleach solution, or Spray Nine, and let it soak for several minutes. Wash hands frequently!

Checking the material data safety sheet of Spray Nine, which is commonly used on drilling and service rigs, Galloway noted it is listed as being a cleaner that kills viruses.

There are times, such as nippling up the blowout preventor system (BOPS), when workers are in close proximity. Galloway suggested they should wear surgical masks at that time. It’s not the same as an N95 mask, but those should be reserved for medical personnel, she pointed out. A surgical mask will contain larger particles.

Oh, and “no spitting!” she said.

If at all possible, limit the number of people working on the drill floor. It may not be necessary to have a person cleaning, for instance, in close proximity to others.

The RM of Browning has recently instituted a practice where operators or drivers of certain vehicles stay with that unit, and don’t switch. Galloway liked that idea, saying, “If you can, stick to one unit.”

“Assign a particular worker to a particular unit.”

Doing so would minimize possible cross-contamination.

While a bleach solution might not be good for seats, Spray Nine could be used. And it’s important to regularly clean units you drive in.

“Keep it clean and wash your hands,” she said.

At the end of the day, do not take your work clothes home, and do not change in the doghouse. Keep everything separate. And wash your hands.

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