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How to Protect your Workforce against Health Risks on Oil Projects in East Africa

Construction works around major oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania are starting. In the remote and, for many, unknown region of Western Uganda, projects will attract a large number of contractors and workers. The success and on-time delivery of these projects will largely depend on managing health and security risks to ensure workforce resilience and business continuity.

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Construction works around major oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania are starting. In the remote and, for many, unknown region of Western Uganda, projects will attract a large number of contractors and workers. The success and on-time delivery of these projects will largely depend on managing health and security risks to ensure workforce resilience and business continuity.

Uganda has an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves especially around the Lake Albert region in the West of the country, close to its border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Three major projects are gearing up to develop these resources: the Tilenga and Kingfisher upstream projects in Uganda, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania. The Tilenga project, operated by TotalEnergies, and the Kingfisher project, operated by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), are expected to deliver a combined production of 230,000 barrels per day at plateau.

The construction phases of these projects are in their initial stage and the workforce population is set to grow around the construction sites. These remote locations outside the capital cities unfortunately only have access to basic health care. They are prone to infectious diseases such as malaria and also have a low COVID-19 vaccination rate. For many, the thought of a completely foreign environment with its own health and security risks can be quite stressful, and rightly so.

With years of proven experience working with major oil and gas players across Africa and beyond, the International SOS team has successfully managed challenges faced on such projects when it comes to the health and safety of workers, and the surrounding communities.

We have therefore compiled a list of common challenges you might face, and how these can be managed with the right expertise:

Health Risks and Spread of Diseases (country-specific risks/surrounding environment/project sites)

It is important to be aware of the health risks of the project sites and the surrounding environment.

Country-specific health risks also need to be accounted for, as they vary from one country to the other. For example, in Tanzania, 5 out of the top 10 causes of deaths are communicable diseases1. It is therefore crucial to identify the specificities of each disease posing a risk to the workforce, and to build a robust plan to manage and tackle the spread of each one, as part of the project’s health system.

This will help to ensure the health and wellbeing of the workers populations and the surrounding community.

Compliance with Regulatory and Local Content Requirements

There is a need to comply with both the company’s own HSE policy as well as that of the operator.

Moreover, with the EACOP project being carried out in two different countries, this also means that two different regulations must be understood and complied with when it comes to delivering primary or emergency care to employees on site, or even reporting health incidents.

Understanding the local content requirements of two different countries and being able to mitigate compliance risks can also be challenging. Partnering with a healthcare and security expert who not only operates by global standards but who also abides by local legislations and works with the right local providers to meet them, can be the one of the best investments for the continuity of your activities.

Mitigation of Lost Time Incidents and Recordables

Meeting standards for occupational health from bodies like Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and complying with regional requirements, can be quite challenging for companies.

Injury on Duty (IOD) needs to be managed as per company and operator’s policy, with the correct escalation procedures in place. At the same time, it is important to be able to limit Lost Time Injuries and Recordables to meet your Duty of Care obligations and ensure business continuity.

Costs of Medical Evacuations

Medical evacuations in the event of an accident on site, can be quite costly, especially if you are unsure about the next steps and where to take your injured or sick employee for the right level of care to be provided.

Most often, the nearest facility may take too long to reach to or not have the adequate capabilities in place to cater for emergencies affecting workers in the oil and gas industries. Precious time and resources are then spent looking for the right solution when situations like these can be avoided with a solid emergency and evacuation protocol in place.

Finding a Provider to Support Geographic and Operational Needs

Finding a health and security provider to support your geographic and operational needs along oil and gas development projects, can be a challenge in itself since a very limited number of providers know the complexities of the continent and its countries.

Keeping the various challenges that might arise in mind, while also thinking of contingency plans, can also be overwhelming. Therefore, taking the time to choose the right qualified partner will considerably boost your project’s lifecycle.

For example, at International SOS, we have been operating across the globe since 1985, with over 25 years of experience in Africa. We have experience on major projects with multi-sites in challenging and multicultural environments. Our unique ability to internally escalate to trained physicians has allowed our clients to prevent recordable cases when applicable.

How to Tackle Project Challenges through Customised Business Continuity Strategies

It is clear that companies need to be wary of health and security risks in the countries where they deploy their teams, but also mindful of country-specific legislations that might affect the solutions they have in mind for their workforce.

Since International SOS has been operating in various regions under different legislations, clients’ policies and standards for years now, our teams are well-versed in the development of tailor-made healthcare solutions for oil and gas clients.

We carry out health risks analysis, health impact assessments and site health reviews in order to help you make informed decisions in line with your project’s lifecycle and requirements, thus allowing you to have full control of your health spend.

Besides our ability to host multi-site emergency and primary care stations close to the project sites, or to mobilise multicultural skilled health staff to manage medical conditions, we can also build emergency response and evacuation plans for the whole project and specific to each site.

Moreover, when it comes to clinical governance, we can develop a programme specifically for remote multisite projects and assist in the procurement and delivery of drugs and consumables in line with the local legislations.

Whether you need consulting support to help you determine the best course of action when it comes to the health and security of your employees, or appropriate trainings to your employees to help them be aware of health risks prior to deployment, our team of health and security experts can design the right solution to meet your needs and objectives.


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