Expanded offshore periods in connection with coronavirus

The Petroleum Safety Authority has released information regarding expanded offshroe periods exceeding 21 days due to the handling of the coronavirus situation.
Ole Jørgen Bratland

In connection with the current coronavirus outbreak, the period spent offshore may need to be extended beyond 21 days in specific circumstances. The PSA has received questions and applications relating to this, and is basing its response on the following practical approach.

The coronavirus outbreak must be considered a special circumstances and also, for the time being, of limited duration. This means that the conditions allowing an employer, following discussions with union officials, to extend the offshore period to 21 days may be present. The conditions for the PSA to extend the time beyond 21 days may also be present.

To avoid unnecessary bureaucracy when considering application on extending offshore periods, the companies can extend this period to 28 days themselves until further notice, when the following conditions are present:

  1. Qualified personnel needed to maintain production are lacking or the work concerns activities directly related to drilling and well operations, including necessary support functions. The lack of qualified personnel derives from the circumstances created by the coronavirus outbreak.
  2. A risk assessment must be carried out to determine that the extension to working time is such that the individual worker will not be subject to unfortunate physical or mental burdens, and that safety considerations can be taken care of.
  3. The extension must be discussed with the employees’ union representatives. The latter can require that the company must apply to the PSA in the normal way.  
  4. Employees must be provided with corresponding compensatory rest periods or, where this is not possible, other appropriate protection.
  5. Employees have the right to be exempted from working beyond their agreed working hours when they request this on health grounds or for weighty social reasons. The employer also undertakes to exempt workers who request this when the work can be postponed or transferred to others without causing harm.
  6. If use has been made of an offshore period beyond 21 days in accordance with the criteria above, a collective weekly report must be submitted to the company’s contact at the PSA by 12.00 every Monday. This report must contain the names of the facility and of the people concerned, including their position and the duration of their offshore period.

If the conditions above cannot be met, an application for an extended offshore period can be made to the PSA in the normal way.

Should the coronavirus position make transport to and from the facility impossible, the PSA would refer to the guidelines for section 42 of the framework regulations (rf), which describes conditions involving fog and the like and which will be normative here.

The employer should assess how far it is acceptable to continue its activities with the existing labour force if the coronavirus outbreak proves long-lasting.