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OMV and Corona – business as usual?

Reading time: 5 min

The second Lockdown. That which absolutely nobody wished for has now become inevitable in light of the new rise in infections. And despite that: the lockdown has lost some of its shock factor at OMV. Because we expected it. And after all, we’re prepared for it – and we’ve learnt a lot along the way. Here’s what crisis management looks like in a large corporation.

“OMV naturally has to be constantly prepared for every possible crisis scenario as it is part of Austria’s critical infrastructure, supplying households and industry with energy”, says David Weissel. As OMV  safety expert, he has been part of the internal Corona Emergency Management Team from the very start. Since February 2020, he has been dealing with all of the developments relating to the pandemic and the requisite safety and prevention measures in OMV.

Crisis management: Next Level

The annual exercises, teams and structures for emergency situations are clearly defined at OMV. Possible training scenarios might include an accident or the breakdown of key technical infrastructure. But coronavirus brought something new: “In our crisis scenarios we always assumed that the crisis would affect an individual area of the business”, says David Weissel. “The coronavirus crisis, however, affects OMV as a whole – every facility and office at practically every international site. So, we needed to adjust the make-up of the team. That said, what needs doing and who needs to do it quickly became clear thanks to the preparatory work and the structures that were already in place”.


Decentralized crisis management

As the number of cases and government-imposed measures vary greatly from country to country, the OMV Corona Emergency Management Team takes a decentralized approach: measures are adjusted based on local conditions and specifications, flexibility is called for. Naturally, the colleagues from the HSSE (Health, Safety, Security, Environment) division are in constant contact and the Emergency Management Team in head office are always available to offer advice to the various sites.

As the number of Corona cases and government-imposed measures vary greatly from country to country, we take a decentralized and flexible approach for emergency management: measures are adjusted based on local conditions and specifications.
David Weissel, OMV Corona Emergency Management Team, OMV Aktiengesellschaft

From head office to home office

A lockdown of this kind necessitates a variety of measures. One of them is sending the majority of the employees to work from home. What in spring was a considerable feat for the IT department is now somewhat simpler in fall. Working from home – well, it’s practically business as usual. “All of the IT resources are in place. From a technical viewpoint, remote working is as good as trouble-free”, says David Weissel.

Less is more: safeguarding energy supply

The offices have emptied once again to minimum occupancy. But, just as in spring, several colleagues are exempt from working from home. After all, there’s something that differentiates OMV from many other companies: it is responsible for safeguarding energy supply. That’s why the Gas Trading team works in head office and why the members of the HSSE Emergency Management Team continue to meet in the office to agree the plan of action. “It’s also critical that the IT team is on site to keep our servers and systems up and running”, says David Weissel. With this, they ensure that the gas pumps and cash registers at the filling station work as they should, in addition to the IT systems in the refineries or oil fields.

Critical infrastructure – lockdown in the refinery?

And the OMV refineries also have to work at the moment with a reduced workforce. Here it’s especially crucial to protect the people that service and maintain the technical infrastructure. After all, even if demand for certain products like kerosene or gasoline plummets from one day to the next, a refinery’s production cannot simply be turned down at will or completely switched off. A refinery is a highly complex system of columns, containers and kilometers of pipes. “Switching off” and then especially starting it up again is a hugely demanding process. That’s why the motto is: keep it running as long as possible and with as few staff as possible – but as many as are necessary.

Refineries are part of the critical infrastructure; we secure the supply of energy to households and industry. The authorities take a keen interest in the Corona measures we implement and how we are dealing with the situation. 
Anca Tudor, HSSE Manager Petrobrazi Refinery, OMV Petrom SA


Added to this is the fact that the OMV refineries are located in three different countries: Austria, Germany and Romania – with varying infection rates and different legal stipulations. Certain measures like mandatory masks, voluntary tests for employees, and stations for taking your temperature are in place in all of the refineries. In Romania there was an additional measure in place in the spring: “In order to safeguard the energy supply, there were around 100 people who were in isolation for a certain period”, explains Anca Tudor, HSSE Manager in the Romanian refinery, Petrobrazi. After finishing their shift, these colleagues didn’t go home but instead had accommodation and food in a hotel. There were certain travel corridors for the journey to work and access to their workplace was severely restricted to any other employees. On top of this, only half of the technical staff were present during the lockdown. Will something similar be necessary again? We’ll have to wait and see.

But one thing is always the deciding factor for Anca Tudor and her team: “It’s important to us that the measures really make sense and are actually helpful – and that they’re not the result of an overreaction”. David Weissel also seems to be taking the situation in his stride: “Even the lockdown in spring went off without a hitch and we have learnt a great deal since then. Our safety measures seem to have been correct: to date, we have not seen a single infection contracted in the OMV head office”.


How does one manage a coronavirus lockdown?

The OMV Corona Emergency Management Team consists of around 15 people from the fields of Health & Safety, IT, Human Resources, Facility Management, and Communications.

The core team is made up of 8 people – all of them experts on health and safety issues. It includes, for example, the head of the vocational health center and a health manager who is in close contact with the vocational health practitioners at the various OMV sites. They are well connected and participate in regular exchanges with virologists, epidemiologists and external advisors. Additional colleagues represent the Upstream and Downstream business divisions, while others are responsible for contact tracing and advise our employees on different issues related to the coronavirus – for example the right approach when presented with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or what to do when experiencing symptoms yourself.

The core team has been meeting every day since March 2020.

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