UK trade body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) has published figures showing North Sea offshore installations have cut staff numbers by 40% since the start of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

It showed 7,000 workers are currently operating North Sea installations; in an average week, the number would be approximately 11,500.

In a briefing last week, OGUK said companies were bringing staff down to minimal levels to negate coronavirus risks. Health and safety director Trevor Stapleton emphasised the importance of also reducing the number of workers on each helicopter flight.

He said current safety measures involve temperature screenings and passengers filling in a questionnaire on their recent health before take-off. Offshore, platforms are staggering working hours to stop employees all using the canteen at the same time.

Encouraging crew reductions, Stapleton said there may be fewer catering staff members due to there being fewer mouths to feed. However, he said: “In terms of minimum manning, do not pick on the cleaning staff, as cleaning remains a top priority.”

The trade body has also advised making all cabins single-occupancy. Several operators, including Shell and Sinopec, have made changes to enable this.

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By GlobalData

He added he was aware of the difficulties and risks to workers reaching their homes after returning. He said OGUK was forming a logistics network to deal with this, but couldn’t make promises.

Stapleton said: “To the workforce, if you’ve got any concerns make sure that you raise them, and we’ll do out damnedest to make sure that they’re addressed.”

Staff “dumped” during coronavirus

Responding to the employment report, offshore workers’ union RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Oil and gas companies are unilaterally sending staff home with no regard to their future income, work or health.

“Employers have failed to engage with offshore trade unions over standardising the industry’s response to coronavirus, even when there have been cases diagnosed on North Sea platforms, yet the UK Government stands by and watches thousands of skilled energy workers being dumped without any comment whatsoever.”

Last week, analysts warned the current reduction in staff numbers could persist into 2021.