Offshore cleaners on deck in Norway

21st of April 2021 Article by Lotte Printz
Offshore cleaners on deck in Norway

Take a trip offshore to meet an unusual breed of cleaners with Scandinavian reporter Lotte Printz.

Like most workplaces, offshore oil-drilling platforms have not escaped new tasks and cleaning protocols brought along by the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, changes like these take some getting used to, but for the Norwegian global energy company Equinor’s own cleaning staff that operate offshore and face peculiar circumstances on an almost daily basis, adapting to change is perhaps more commonplace than for most.

This, however, does not prevent Jan Olaf Sevland, acting manager in the provisions department, from praising their efforts. Speaking to the Norwegian cleaning industry magazine, Renholdsnytt, he said that Equinor’s cleaning operatives have been great at adapting to the changing health and safety guidelines.

“With COVID-19, cleaning has certainly been put on the map. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve only had a couple of COVID-19 cases, and I must grant our cleaning operatives much of the credit for that,” Jan Olaf Sevland said.

Usually there are 2,500 to 3,000 offshore staff on the platforms at any given time and daily shifts during the week on most platforms. To try to prevent transmissions offshore, a ‘traffic light system’ has been introduced, where green, in plain words, means more frequent cleaning of surfaces and objects, while yellow stands for disinfection.

During the pandemic, the cleaning operatives have had to disinfect helicopter seats, hearing protectors and reception areas where staff watch safety guidelines videos. And offshore where fire hazards are particularly great, there were no shortcuts when disinfectants were in short supply at the beginning and alternative chemicals had to be found: they too had to undergo strict chemical approval procedures.

Weather conditions may turn carefully co-ordinated plans upside down, for instance when winds postpone outdoor cleaning tasks or helicopter landings. Quite a few of the offshore cleaning operatives are also HLOs (Helicopter Landing Officers), and they may have to be ‘on deck’ in their firefighter uniforms in a split-second while in the middle of making the beds in the offshore ‘hotel’ or lodgings. Equinor has approximately 11,000 available beds offshore and between three and six thousand room nights per day, making it one of the biggest ‘hotel chains’ in Norway.

So, in addition to being ‘change ready’, to become an Equinor offshore cleaning operative, you also have to be rather physically strong and versatile, be able to keep calm under pressure and ready to take on the task of steering a rescue boat or give first aid in emergencies. Cleaning operatives must also be fluent in either Norwegian or English.

Another ‘special feature’ of being an offshore cleaning operative is that they work 12-hour shifts for two consecutive weeks before having 28 days off. They mainly work in pairs and try to avoid too much repetitive work during a single day to cope with the long working hours.


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