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September 9, 2021

Shell considers mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for rig workers

Documents show Royal Dutch Shell executives continue to consider making Covid-19 vaccination a requirement for continued employment.

By Matt Farmer

Documents show Royal Dutch Shell executives continue to consider making Covid-19 vaccination a requirement for continued employment.

An internal memo seen by The Financial Times shows that Shell will discuss its vaccine policy at an upcoming meeting on 10 September. The memo, dated from 1 September, said that if staff refused vaccination, the company “would make all reasonable efforts to avoid terminating their employment, but will be faced with no alternative but to do so”.

The memo recommends that the company should maintain its current policy of “strong advocacy for vaccination, but no compulsion”. It continued to then suggest that the company should mandate vaccination in specific roles. These would include offshore operations, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, which the memo said Shell was already actively exploring.

During the global outbreak of Covid-19, offshore outbreaks regularly endangered lives and disrupted production. The enclosed nature of life offshore makes distancing difficult and quarantine more difficult still. Evacuations continue to prove costly, disruptive, and hazardous to helicopter pilots.

Currently Shell’s Gulf of Mexico employees must produce a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination to enter sites. The delta variant of Covid-19 has caused a rapidly-increasing wave infections in the US, putting a strain on healthcare systems. The outbreak has proved particularly prolific in the south of the country, where most oil operations reside.

The lack of global availability of vaccines would make company-wide vaccination mandates unfeasible. Shell employs more than 80,000 workers across more than 70 countries, some of which remain mostly unvaccinated. However, the memo suggests that Shell will consider a vaccine mandate in countries with widely-available WHO-approved jabs.

Shell’s trading division has already requested a vaccine mandate due to problems with distancing on trading floors.

Shell declined requests for comment on this story. The company also declined comment on how its policy may change for a recent Offshore Technology story.

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