By Kelli Ainsworth, Editorial Coordinator, and Linda Hsieh, Managing Editor
The limited privacy and leisure time, as well as exposure to noise and extreme temperatures, on offshore rigs create an environment where employees can become highly stressed. This can impact their physical and psychological health and lead to a decrease in job satisfaction, safety and performance, Susan Elston, Vice President of Operational Excellence at Sodexo, said. In fact, the company estimates that up to $9 million can be lost per year on a typical 230POB offshore rig due to poor employee health and well-being. “When people are less motivated, they’re less productive and their health starts to decline. That’s a cost,” Ms Elston said at the 2015 IADC HSE&T Conference on 3 February in Houston.
Those costs, however, don’t show up in one line on a financial statement – they sit behind numerous statistics, making them harder to see and grasp. “But remember, poor health and wellbeing represents millions of dollars of value that’s at stake in this industry.” Losses can take more tangible forms such as accidents, as well as more intangible forms such as absenteeism, turnover and less engaged employees.
Most research that has been done around employee health and well being tends to focus on average workers, without taking into account the unique environment specific to offshore workers. To bridge that gap, Sodexo has been working with the University of Aberdeen for more than five years studying this particular demographic. One surprising result was that in any given region, health problems common to that region are worse among offshore workers compared with that area’s general population, according to Ms Elston.
With the goal of achieving an effective, productive and safe workforce, Sodexo conducted a one-year pilot program targeting the wellness of offshore workers. Compared with other wellness programs that have been undertaken, this program recognized the fact that offshore workers often maintain two separate and very different lifestyles: a home lifestyle and a work lifestyle. Developing a wellness program that would address both was key, Ms Elston said. “It was critically that link between home and work time that made the biggest difference,” Ms Elston said.
The program provided tailored education, support and coaching, targeting their lives on the rig and at home, to address an individual’s health goals. Services offered ranged from dietary advice to support in reducing alcohol and tobacco use.
Results from the pilot program were positive, with workers losing an average of 9 lbs each and managing to keep the weight off. Additionally, there was a 44% reduction in the number of people with high blood pressure and a 12% reduction in the number of employees who weren’t properly hydrated. Improvements also were recorded on the psychological side. While 14% of workers reported above-average anxiety levels before the program, afterwards only 3% of workers did. Quality of sleep and employee engagement also improved.
In an onshore pilot program, the number of smokers and the quantity smoked decreased. The program saw similar results for alcohol use. Average weight loss was a little over 2.5 lbs – not as high as the offshore program because the starting weight of the onshore workers was lower than that of their offshore peers, Ms Elston said.
Evidence suggests that, by the nature of their work to be away from home, offshore workers see potentially negative impacts on their general health and wellness. “We need to address this,” she concluded. “This industry has the opportunity, and we have the wherewithal. Intervention can be successful, but it has to be the right type of intervention.”