Offshore Air Quality

In the political wake of one of the most widespread man-made disasters in the oil and gas industry, it can be argued that offshore drilling operations are now being run with the most stringent and effective safety standards in place. More controls, fail safes, and oversights have been written into company policy than ever before, and it would seem as though massive spills in the gulf are a thing of the past. With a safer and brighter future ahead, sharpened by the wisdom of past mistakes, the industry can now be allowed to develop and grow beyond its former glory with an emphasis on safety and environmental responsibility.
Countless new investments have been made into the infrastructure and execution of offshore drilling and oil distribution, but with these new safety and legal accountability measures, there is perhaps one investment in safety and health that has yet to be made, simply because its importance is seldom if ever noticed by those who administer the protocols for production. This specific area still leaves much room for improvement, yet its solutions are far simpler, and the investments much smaller, than the recent changes to policy and progress in the field. This area is still related to personal and environmental health in a much more direct relationship to the health of the offshore workforce, as it concerns the health of the workers’ immediate environment— the indoor air quality of the vessel or rig in which they live and work.

Offshore oil rigs and vessels are a unique and challenging environment with respect to indoor air quality, yet this is an area that is commonly neglected by most if not all of the inhabiting workers, simply due to the many demands of the job and the extreme safety practices and procedures already in place for protection against other more obvious hazards. However, we cannot stress enough the importance of having clean and healthy air recycling through the ducts of a working vessel or rig in the gulf, and it is precisely this controlled and contained, remote environment that demands specific attention and regular maintenance to preserve the health, morale and productivity of all those onboard at any given time.

For starters, the living quarters and working areas of these structures are by necessity full of bustling workers, each carrying small amounts of dust, grease, and various chemical particles they unknowingly contribute to the makeup of the indoor air environment. Despite regular maintenance of the air handling system and a steady schedule for replacing filters, these particles will eventually settle and build up within the ducts and surfaces of each room to a level that is unsafe for regular respiration, and a full cleaning of the entire air handling system is necessary in order to keep these contaminants down to a safe minimum. If you notice a pattern of workers falling ill, stale or musky odors or a lack of energy amongst technicians during the final days of their shifts onboard, this could actually be the result of poor indoor air quality levels, not to mention the fact that such confined spaces are breeding grounds for germs and other contagions, or the fact that any structure housing workers in the middle of a gulf or ocean is subjected to extremely high levels of outside humidity that can be both dangerous and destructive to improperly insulated or ventilated interiors.

Having established that professional and thorough air duct cleaning is a non-negotiable investment for offshore operations, let us now establish the need to truly treat this as an investment, and not another search for the lowest bidder. Indoor air quality is not something any employer should take lightly, as the consequences of an inadequate air duct cleaning job can prove far more costly to your bottom line than the few dollars saved from a hiring decision based on the most attractive price. So, if we’ve established that air quality control is a necessary investment, who should you invest in to ensure that your employees or co-workers are breathing the cleanest air possible? You should always invest in a company backed by a certified IAQ specialist, particularly one accredited with expertise in mold remediation. An IAQ contractor such as ECS will not only work with you on a regular air duct cleaning and maintenance schedule, but they also have the necessary equipment, products and expertise to boost your rig’s internal immune system in the process, making your air ducts and air handler more resistant to mold growth in the future by applying anti-fungal barrier coatings to the internal components after disinfecting, and should the need arise for immediate mold remediation or bio-decontamination in a specific part of your rig or vessel, they can take care of these issues at the same time with little to no interruption to regular operations, all without having to involve multiple contractors, subs, or extensive delays.
We urge all our neighbors in the offshore industry to consider the importance of investing in the safety of your indoor air as you protect the open waters of our region.