Shell, Bechtel take hygiene, distancing measures after virus complaints on vast factory project

Oil giant Shell is instituting stricter hygiene at a vast project to build a polyethylene plant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after workers voiced concerns over the Covid-19 virus.

Local news station KDKA received more than a dozen emails from workers complaining that social distancing and sanitary protocols were being ignored.

Complaints included crowded bus trips to site, mandatory mass meetings, and unsanitary portable toilets that frequently ran out of hand sanitiser, KDKA said. 

Bechtel is the main works contractor on the project in the Ohio River Valley, Beaver County, approximately 30 miles north-west of Pittsburgh.

It said the project would involve up to 6,000 workers during construction.

Responding to the station’s inquiries, Shell said yesterday that the situation was "very fluid", ad that changes are being implemented.

"We are currently obtaining more busses and staggering shifts and lunch times to improve social distancing amongst workers. We are also curtailing large meetings on site," the company’s statement said.

Regular deep cleaning of busses and common areas will be done.

"We are also cleaning lunch areas between lunch times and have increased the placement of hand-sanitiser dispensers across the site," Shell said.

"There have been no presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 cases among our site’s workers," the statement said. "Even so, Shell, Bechtel and Union Leadership continue to meet daily to discuss and plan around this very fluid situation."

Image: Barge on the Ohio River with Shell’s polyethylene factory under construction in the background, late January 2019 (Drums600/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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