COVID-19 has made its way onto oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico
This article was posted by the Advocate:
While an oil rig far out in the Gulf of Mexico might seem an unlikely place for the coronavirus to take root, more than two dozen offshore workers on seven out of 680 platforms have now tested positive for the virus, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Close quarters, shared mess halls and frequently touched surfaces — such as handrails and handheld radios — make it difficult to stop the spread of the virus once it arrives on a facility. While the federal agency charged with regulating energy production offshore has not established any guidelines, industry groups have created some best practices to decrease the chance that the virus will find its way onto another platform. They say more widespread testing would further enable them to operate safely through the pandemic.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, has not established any protocols for what companies should or must do when an offshore worker displays symptoms of coronavirus, said Sandy Day, an agency spokesman.
The agency is working to develop mitigations to reduce the risk of exposure for its own employees traveling offshore, he said, four of whom have tested positive for coronavirus. Three have since recovered and have been released from quarantine. One employee is currently under medical care. BSEE is continuing inspections and permitting of offshore facilities during the pandemic, Day said.
BP is among the companies that has had offshore workers test positive for coronavirus, said Jason Ryan, a company spokesman. The workers were already onshore when they got their test results. But the platform has since been cleaned and the crew has rotated, Ryan said.
The company has also implemented a health screening process and 5-day quarantine for all workers before they go offshore. “The safety and well-being of staff and contractors and respect for the communities in which we operate is our highest priority,” Ryan said.
The Offshore Operators Committee, a member-organization of energy companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, created a tip sheet for reducing the spread of the virus. Suggested mitigation measures include pre-screening before workers are brought to platforms, cleaning of oft-touched surfaces on the platforms and planning for quarantine and specialized transportation for any individuals on board who exhibit symptoms.
The measures appear to be working, said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association. In the past two weeks, there have been 11 COVID-19 cases detected in the roughly 1,500 people who work offshore, he said Monday.
“We see what we think are great results,” he said. “I think that’s due to the seriousness and the commitment we’ve seen.”
As of April 8, 26 offshore workers in the Gulf had tested positive for coronavirus, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which has been unwilling to provide updates since then. Questions by phone and by email to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more current numbers were not returned.
While Milito is heartened by the low numbers so far, he noted that offshore workers, like others, have experienced difficulty in getting tested for coronavirus. That’s why industry groups have made requests at the federal and state level for testing to be made available for their workers.
“It’s our goal to get everyone tested,” he said. “They’re essential workers. And they are in a confined setting.”
What is the law for aggravated injury coverage under the Defense Base Act? The Aggravation Rule
There is still coverage under the Defense Base Act if you aggravated a prior condition or prior injury.
Under the aggravation rule, if you have a previous injury, disability and/or medical condition and you aggravate it due to your being overseas – then the entire injury, disability and/or medical condition is compensable. Cordero v. Triple A Mach. Shop, 580 F.2d 1331, 1337 (1978).
The exception to this rule is the “double recovery rule.” See below.
The Ninth Circuit has held that the last responsible employer rule should be applied only in occupational disease cases, and the aggravation rule in successive injury or cumulative trauma cases. Foundation Constructors, Inc. v. Director, OWCP, 950 F.2d 621, 623-24 (9th Cir. 1991).
The Symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that results in a series of emotional and physical reactions in individuals who have either witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Events that cause the individual to fear for personal life and wellbeing — such as a car collision or other accident, a physical or sexual assault, long-term abuse, torture, a natural disaster, living in a war zone, or life-altering experiences like the death of a loved one — can all spur the following PTSD symptoms…
1. Physical Pain
PTSD will often begin with a series of common physical ailments—such as headaches or migraines, dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, breathing difficulties, and stomach and digestive issues. At first, the person might not realize that their pain is related to their PTSD. Studies suggest that 15% to 35% of people who suffer from chronic pain also have PTSD.
2. Nightmares or Flashbacks
It is very common for those with PTSD to suffer nightmares or flashbacks in which the person suddenly and vividly re-lives the traumatic event in a repetitive manner. Known as re-experiencing, it can enter dreams or come on suddenly in waking images or sensations of physical and emotional pain and fear. It may cause both children and adult sufferers to have sleeping difficulties and anxiety leaving the safety of home. These symptoms can be extremely terrifying for the individual, because they are reliving their trauma all over again. These nightmares or flashbacks can be triggered by something whether its thoughts, smells, something someone said, or a noise.
3. Depression or Anxiety
Mental phobias, which professionals deem as irrational and persistent fear and avoidance of certain objects or situations can cause extreme anxiety in PTSD sufferers to the point where it causes paranoia and depression.
Both adults and children with PTSD who also have solid social lives and interests may suddenly lose interest in their favorite hobbies, activities, and friends that they used to be very passionate about. Seeking out risky behavior can also be a form of escapism through drug or alcohol abuse, or thrill seeking. 5. Avoidance Avoidance of any physical or mental stimuli that reminds them of a past traumatic event can be a typical symptom of PTSD. For example, those involved in tragic car collisions may avoid driving and commuting in a car. PTSD can also cause particular avoidance of places or people that remind you of the traumatic experience.
Repression, or the intentional blockage of memories associated with a past event or experience, is also a symptom of PTSD. The person may destroy pictures or memorabilia of a time in their life or attempt to distracting themselves by throwing themselves into work.
7. Emotional Numbing
It is very common for those with PTSD to try to numb their feelings because it is hard to suffer pain when you do not feel any emotion at all. Emotional numbing often leads to the gradual withdrawal and eventually complete isolation from social circles.
It is common for people with PTSD to suffer jitters so severe that it becomes impossible to relax due to the fear of threats. These individuals can be characterized as “on edge” and “jumpy” or easily frightened. Arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by something that brings back memories of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
This state of constant fear and paranoia can cause extreme PTSD-associated irritability, indecisiveness, and a total lack of concentration, sleeplessness, and difficulty maintaining personal relationships.
10. Guilt and Shame
Those PTSD patients who can’t get past their negative experience may find it difficult to move forward and maintain a healthy life. They may blame themselves and constantly relive the event, wondering how they could have prevented it. Often, immense shame and guilt will set in if they blame themselves for the tragedy.
The above list of PTSD symptoms is not exhaustive. If you think you are experiencing PTSD, you need to seek care from a healthcare professional even if your symptoms are different than those listed here.