Oil giant BP has come under fire for flying workers offshore while the results of their coronavirus tests were still outstanding.
The energy firm, which this week announced a new onshore virus screening facility in Aberdeen, has been accused of putting worker safety at risk after it flew 12 contractors with pending Covid-19 test results out to its ETAP platform in the central North Sea.
One crew member on the flight tested positive for the virus less than 24 hours later.
It is understood BP tested around 30 workers for Covid-19 on Thursday and flew half the crew out the next day, with results not due until Saturday afternoon.
Two workers refused to get on the helicopter to the ETAP platform, based 100 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, due to personal safety concerns.
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BP confirmed last night that one worker had tested positive for the coronavirus on the North Sea installation, but stressed it was “going to great lengths” to introduce “wide-ranging and robust” measures to protect staff and contractors.
One worker, who did not wish to be named, said: “Testing is a good thing, but BP could have been sensible and waited for 24 hours – they’ve made a massive mistake.
“We maybe shouldn’t have got on the helicopter, but we didn’t know someone was going to fail the test.
“The current situation is pretty bad and people are scared.
“BP should have waited until after everyone had passed and put everyone’s mind at ease.”
The 12 workers were isolated for 24 hours following their arrival on the platform, but were told to undertake work only hours after their test results and the discovery of the positive case on board.
The affected worker was airlifted off the platform shortly after receiving his results on Saturday.
A BP spokesman said: “BP can confirm a member of crew on the ETAP platform, who was not showing any symptoms, has tested positive for Covid-19.
“The individual was safely returned to shore by helicopter on Saturday.
“The ETAP offshore installation manager (OIM) and offshore medic evaluated the rest of the crew and, as a precautionary measure, the 12 people who travelled with the individual who tested positive were advised to self-isolate on the installation.
“These individuals had mobilised under a temporary ‘test and fly’ arrangement following tests carried out at a testing facility in Aberdeen.
“BP has now moved to a ‘test and wait’ process that will ensure all test results are known prior to mobilisation.
“This is a dynamic situation and BP, like others, is learning and adapting to these unique set of circumstances.
“As we embed our testing programme and other safe passage measures, we will continue to share our learnings with government and industry to support the wider industry response, while ensuring that the clinic delivering our testing prioritises the needs of frontline health workers.”
Jake Molloy, the RMT’s regional organiser, claimed the incident was proof that the sector was “struggling” to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
He added: “We need to have some kind of standard practice to give workers the assurance that everything that can be done is being done.
“The offshore industry is a unique environment unlike any other where social distancing throws up considerable difficulties – we need to take a step back and look at this again.”
Trevor Stapleton, health and safety director for Oil and Gas UK, said oil and gas companies were “taking steps to reduce the risks to their workforce to as low as reasonably practical” while maintaining safe operations.