Did you know that three out of five employees have experienced mental health issues because of work? In fact, research regarding mental health in the workplace has shown that working conditions and working environment can play a huge impact on one’s mental health, affecting their ability to perform well in their job.
However for an industry that requires such rigorous Health and Safety policies, the offshore industry creates some of the most challenging and potentially dangerous working conditions, both physically and mentally. An offshore worker is often expected to work long shifts up to 12 hours, on rotation for numerous weeks (2 weeks on, 2 weeks off). In addition, work can often involve adverse weather conditions completely isolated from friends and family. This highly pressurised environment certainly calls into question one of the biggest concerns regarding health and safety and that is the mental health of offshore employees; a topic many feel can be overlooked.
Why is mental health an issue in the offshore industry?
Recent studies have explored a number of factors relating to health and safety considerations within the offshore Industry; including extensive work rotations, fatigue, isolation and stress.
IOSH , the Chartered body of safety and health professionals, recently drew attention to studies that argued shift work can heighten the risks of injury, particularly amongst those working 12 hours or more, and night shifts. Long shift patterns are physically demanding and can lead to severe fatigue, another health and safety issue to be considered in the offshore industry. Not only can fatigue lead to injury, health experts have provided evidence that exhaustion is one of the greatest factors contributing to mental health problems.
The working environment within the offshore industry is one of isolation. Employees are often isolated from the outside world, and in some cases this lack of communication with family and loved ones can lead to the feeling of loneliness. The Mental Health Foundation have recognised that social isolation can be a contributing factor to mental distress.
How do we solve the problem?
Thankfully the promotion of Mental Health Awareness across the globe has certainly led to some positive results in the offshore industry. Nautilus, the RMT Union and the UK Chamber of Shipping, for example have jointly agreed new guidelines to help shipping companies develop policies for the mental wellbeing of their seafarers. They plan to provide in-depth training on mental health and the signs, increase self-awareness and provide employees with details of external persons they can seek assistance from.
Below are a list of Charities that offer support to offshore workers:
Changes are also being made at Ports for Offshore workers. The industry is learning from improvements that have been made by other sectors to diminish the rise of mental health issues and support and promote positivity; encouraging workers to seek help by offering more services.
By continuing to raise awareness of mental health in the offshore industry, statistics relating to this issue should lessen as resources are made more accessible resulting in improved working conditions.