A new study has warned that the coronavirus is taking a “significant” toll on the mental health of offshore workers in the oil & gas industry.
The Mental Health and the Remote Rotational Workforce report, from the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work, studied the impact of the pandemic on the remote rotational workforce across several industries, including offshore oil & gas, along with maritime and mining.
Remote rotational working has had an impact on employees’ mental health before the pandemic. The dangerous, physical, and high-pressure nature of the work is compounded by frequent twelve-hour shifts and night work, along with working away from home for extended periods.
This all has a material impact on workers, and the report warned that 40% of workers suffered from suicidal thoughts, 37% from loneliness and 23% from emotional exhaustion.
Additionally, 29% met the benchmark for clinical depression whilst on-rotation, the report warned.
However, this has been compounded further by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of workers on UK offshore oil and gas installations fell by around 4,000 in 2020.
According to the report, 65% of respondents said that the coronavirus has increased the demands of their job, with 56% saying their stress and anxiety levels had grown. In addition, 55% said they were now working additional hours.
The coronavirus has not only increased potential health and safety risks, there is also a greater risk of accidents on site and challenges to maintaining productivity levels. With offshore workers living and travelling in physically close to one another, there are fewer opportunities for social distancing than in other industries.
49% of respondents said that they had grown more concerned for their personal safety.
This is all on top of the concerns over the economic impact of the coronavirus – the oil & gas industry was hard hit by the pandemic as productivity slumped and demand for energy fell. A warning from OGUK has estimated that the industry could shed around 30,000 jobs by autumn 2021.
This means that many offshore workers are at risk of furlough and unemployment, further placing a burden on mental health.
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The report recommended that organisations should review their flexible working policies to ensure a suitable work-life balance. In addition, employees should receive an appropriate level of care.
According to Medical Director Wellness and NCD’s at International SOS Dr Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez: “There is an urgent need for increased focus, understanding and strategies to mitigate mental ill health and promote better metal health of the remote rotational workforce.
“This is highlighted in our survey, which uncovers significantly high levels of critical mental ill health issues, including suicidal thoughts and depression. The Covid-19 environment has also added increased stress on this already pressured working arrangement.”
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