Mental Health & Wellbeing Offshore
The RGU Study into the impacts of the 3&3 rota offshore clearly shows that continuous 3 week working has an impact upon mental health and wellbeing.
The reasons for why working 21 12 hour shifts in a row offshore impacts upon mental health are complicated and take in: High levels of fatigue, being away from family and friends for long periods, as well as the impact upon spouses, partners and children. Many workers report taking days to readjust to being at home, which, in turn, can cause friction within the home environment.
Friction at home can contribute to heightened stress levels and therefore impact upon levels of personal resilience to cope with challenging work environments when offshore.
Supplementary to the RGU study are other academic studies that, while not directly linked to the offshore workforce as such, indicate the impact of problems sleeping and precarious work on mental health and wellbeing.
For example, in relation to disrupted sleep:
In a very recent study by the University of Glasgow, found the following as a result of studying 91.105 individuals:
“Dr Laura Lyall, lead author [of the study], said: “In the largest such study ever conducted, we found a robust association between disruption of circadian rhythms and mood disorders. Previous studies have identified associations between disrupted circadian rhythms and poor mental health, but these were on relatively small samples.”
In addition to increased risk of depression and bipolar disorder, lower relative amplitude was also associated with low subjective ratings of happiness and health satisfaction, with higher risk of reporting loneliness, and with slower reaction time (an indirect measure of cognitive ability).”
A further example, this time of the impact of precarious employment upon mental health and wellbeing carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research, found:
“Younger workers face a future employment landscape that could damage their mental health and wellbeing unless we take action. As a result of the evolution of the UK labour market over the past 25 years, today’s generation of younger workers - millennials and centennials (those born during or after 1982) – risk losing out on access to permanent, secure and fulfilling work. Compared to previous generations, they are more likely to be in work characterised by contractual flexibility (including part-time work, temporary work and self-employment)…
New analysis reveals younger workers in part-time and temporary work are more likely to experience poorer mental health and wellbeing, while there is more of a mixed picture among those who are self-employed.”
These two studies are just indications of a much larger body of evidence that shows the impact upon mental health of both problems with sleep and fatigue and in relation to insecure employment.
While not all problems with mental health and wellbeing can be resolved by offshore operators and employers, there are some significant structural changes that could be made, without huge costs to the UK Oil & Gas industry that would have real, lasting and beneficial outcomes for the workforce.
Ending precarious employment contacts offshore and agreeing a new model of employment that emphasises job and income security,
All operators moving to a 2&3 rota as standard and,
A return of independent trade union Health and Safety Representatives.
It is time for the operators and employers to take the mental health and wellbeing of the offshore workforce seriously.
The only way to demonstrate a real commitment to addressing these concerns is to work with the trade unions to make structural changes to the way the industry manages production.