The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) was forced to conduct inspections and investigations of offshore facilities remotely, and closed its office in March as the country grappled to contain the novel coronavirus.
This meant many inspections were done via online video platform Zoom and other streaming services. NOPSEMA also conducted thorough interviews with offshore health and safety officers and operator management teams to ensure proper processes and hygiene standards were being adhered to.
"While inspections have continued throughout the pandemic, they have been conducted remotely in order to comply with physical distancing and health and safety requirements," the regulator said.
"NOPSEMA plans to recommence offshore inspections in early August, subject to the appropriate controls and arrangements in place to protect the health of all personnel involved."
The regulator said the staged return to physical inspections at offshore oil and gas facilities would be conducted with "appropriate protocols to manage health risks."
As part of this staged process the regulatory body has released an updated Compliance Strategy.
Initial physical inspections of offshore facilities will focus on larger inventories of oil on board, and how many employees are present aboard vessels and platforms.
Another area of focus will be ageing facilities, and whether platforms and FPSOs remain safe to operate.
"During the recovery period, NOPSEMA will continue to investigate duty holder notification of accidents, dangerous occurrence and environmental reportable incidents and complaints from the workforce and community in relation to COVID-19 and other matters," it said.
"Investigations will be conducted where necessary in accordance with the NOPSEMA Compliance Strategy and the NOPSEMA Investigation Policy."
In May NOPSEMA published a review of its inspections, and found Australian operators and contractors working in Australian waters had acted "swiftly" to minimise and eliminate any change of outbreaks of COVID-19. Australian companies fared better than other regional counterparts, with the upstream sector hard hit by clusters of coronavirus outbreaks across facilities.