Health and wellbeing offshore examined

Health and wellbeing offshore examined

A recent study has examined the health behaviours and health management practices on board offshore installations on the UKCS (UK Continental Shelf).

The research has been undertaken by the University of Aberdeen and sponsored by the Offshore Safety Division of the UK Health and Safety Executive. It examines the relationships between the management of both safety and health in the offshore environment as well as the potential outcomes of investing in workforce health for an employer.

Previous findings indicated that the positive management of health promotion and health surveillance activities offshore was associated with lower lost-time injury rates. The research aimed to examine this relationship in greater detail and specifically addressed the questions relating to the potential relationships between health management and the overall safety and wellbeing of offshore workers.

Dr Kathryn Mearns, from the University of Aberdeen’s Industrial Psychology Research Centre, is Principal Investigator. She explained: “Until recently, research focussing on safety performance and behaviour within organisations has typically attempted to identify the individual level factors underpinning accidents and injuries in the workplace. However, emphasis on these individual level factors has shifted towards a focus on the impact of various organisational factors.

“This current research that my colleagues and I have been involved in focuses on the impact of positive management of workforce health as an organisational factor. Since safety has traditionally taken precedence over health affairs, it is likely that many organisations have now reached a developmental stage where the health of their workforce is becoming increasingly important and they perceive the need to re-dress the balance for a ‘Health’ and ‘Safety’ culture in equilibrium.”

The study was carried out in three stages. The initial phase involved the development of a Health at Work questionnaire; the second phase involved the piloting and revision of the questionnaire and the final phase involved the questionnaire being sent to all participating installations.

A total of 2,199 individuals completed questionnaires from 41 UK offshore installations during the summer of 2002. The findings of the current study suggest that the health improvement outcomes usually associated with investment in workforce health may not be the only benefits an employer could anticipate following investment in worksite health initiatives.

The findings of the research suggests that organisations should look beyond the health-related costs when determining commitment to workforce health given the potential of positive knock-on effects of reduced risk-taking and improved workforce commitment.

Dr Mearns added: "Overall, our findings suggest that a great deal of beneficial work pertaining to the management of workforce health is underway on many of the participating installations. However, many worksites have a long way to go in terms of basic health management practices. We appreciate the commercial realities of the offshore oil and gas industry - particularly for smaller operators.

"Nonetheless, the industry drive for improved safety must take account of the current finding that investment in workforce health would appear to be associated with broader organisational improvement in the form of greater workforce commitment and reduced risk-taking behaviour."

The first section of the study has taken 18 months to be delivered and can be viewed on the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr305.htm The second phase will be fully completed later this year.

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