BEAVER CO., Pa. — UPDATE (4:00 p.m.): The Shell Cracker plant will shut down for the next week due to coronavirus concerns.
The company provided us with the following statement:
“The health and well-being of our workers and nearby communities remains Shell’s top priority. That’s an ethos we live by every day, but it’s especially relevant at time when the world is taking drastic measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
We’re committed to doing our part.
We have made the decision to temporarily suspend construction activities at Shell’s Beaver County site, effective March 18th. In the days ahead we will install additional mitigation measures aligned with CDC guidance. Once complete, we will consider a phased ramp-up that allows for the continuation of safe, responsible construction activities.
We’re proud of the over 8,000 workers who have committed their time and expertise to one of the largest construction projects in the United States, and the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. The decision to pause was not made lightly. But we feel strongly the temporary suspension of construction activities is in the best long-term interest of our workforce, nearby townships and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Our goal is to build a positive, decades-long legacy in the region. That means earning our right to live and work here every day. It also means caring for people. While understandably disappointing to many, we believe this decision honors that approach.”
-Hilary Mercer, VP Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals
Earlier in the day ,officials in Beaver County called for the temporary closure of the Shell Cracker plant in Potter Township after workers raised concerns about working conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Workers said Tuesday they are being packed so tight onto buses that sometimes there is no place to sit. They are worried these close quarters could lead to a coronavirus outbreak there.
It’s business as usual at the plant, even after news broke Monday night that the county had its first confirmed COVID-19 case.
There are 6,000 people who work at the plant. It’s one of the biggest construction sites in the country, and dozens of employees reached out to Channel 11 complaining about the unsanitary conditions amid the pandemic.
They said photos of large, crowded meetings and poor sanitation in restrooms speak for themselves.
“There’s no sanitizer, there’s no toilet paper. This place is the most unsanitary place you can be in,” one employee said, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing his job.
He told Channel 11 despite the government limiting large gatherings, he continues to come to work every day on a bus filled with over 50 people.
Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.
“Why does the largest project in the United States have to go on when we have an individual from every single county on this job site?” he said.
In response to these allegations, Shell officials said Tuesday they are bringing in more buses to cut those numbers down, along with doing “extra sanitizing” at the plant. They told Channel 11 they are deep cleaning in common areas and keeping a watch on the constant changes with this situation.
However, the plant is open for now, and many workers said they are worried.
“Why they’re not taking the number one safety (issue) that’s going on in the nation right now, which is coronavirus? They’re not only compromising every employee’s, safety they’re compromising all of our families’ safety,” one worker said.
Now, several workers have signed an online petition to get the business shutdown until the COVID-19 outbreak is contained.
© 2020 Cox Media Group