July 9, 2020

OSHA Guidance Describes Measures to Protect Oil and Gas Workers During the Pandemic

New guidance issued by OSHA lists measures that employers can take to help protect oil and gas workers from occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2. The agency urges employers to defer work that requires close contact among workers, if possible; configure communal work environments so that workers are spaced six feet apart; stagger workers’ arrival, break, and departure times to avoid congregation in common areas; and ensure adequate ventilation in work areas. According to OSHA, employers should also encourage workers to wear face coverings as a source control to prevent the potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other preventive measures include using physical barriers such as dividers or partitions to separate workers from each other, limiting the number of personnel allowed in operating areas, and cleaning and disinfecting shared common equipment between shifts.

OSHA’s guidance also describes oil and gas work tasks associated with the four exposure risk levels in the agency’s occupational risk pyramid. Tasks in the lower exposure risk category include those that do not require frequent close contact with coworkers, contractors, customers, or the public, and duties that are performed in non-public areas away from other workers. Oil and gas drilling, servicing, production, distribution, and processing tasks that require frequent close contact with others are examples of tasks that fall into the medium risk category. OSHA also classifies travel within or between facilities when workers must share vehicles as medium risk. The agency does not list any tasks as high or very high risk and states that these categories are “not applicable for most anticipated work tasks” in oil and gas.

OSHA’s new guidance is intended to supplement the agency’s general interim guidance for workers and employers of workers at increased risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Additional OSHA resources for employers and workers about the coronavirus pandemic are collected on the agency’s COVID-19 webpage.