Ms Bhakti Shah, Managing Director of Impact Afya ltd, talks to the Oil and Gas East African Network (OGEAN) about minimizing health risk and increasing productivity and improving performance of the employees at the oil and gas workplace.
ImpactAfya Ltd is a Corporate Wellness Solutions Provider, based in Dar es Salaam.
Hussein Boffu asked,
1.As the country’s oil and gas expands, with new employees joining the oil and gas workplace for their first time. Do you think that is vital for oil and gas companies to develop wellness program relevant to new and local workforce?
Yes of course – working in the oil and gas sector is extremely demanding and this is substantiated by the fact that the utilization of wellness services in this sector is increasing rapidly around the world.
As the Oil and Gas industry expands in Tanzania, it will attract Tanzanians from across the country and expatriate staff. Looking at the industry trends in other parts of the world, The prevalence of both physical and psychological stressors is expected to increase and will lead to numerous health risks, which in turn will negatively affect the productivity and performance
Research from the World Health Organization shows that one in five people worldwide are living with mental health issues. Modern workplaces are increasingly challenging and personal lives in this sector experience isolation and loneliness. Almost a quarter of adults are not physically active to prevent illness and one in three people are usually distracted at work by their financial situation. This applies to Tanzania as well, where the Tanzania Demographic and Health Statistics has reported a 16% probability of dying in the economically productive age-group of 30-70 due to non-communicable diseases.
Employees and their dependents in the Oil and Gas sector need assistance with work-life issues, including family support services and substance abuse intervention, nutritional issues, including weight management and dietary consultation as it relates to disease prevention and management. Family and relationship issues such as eldercare, childcare and addictions are also of concern in this sector due to the nature of work demands.
Employers in Oil and Gas industry must examine existing policies, practices and objectives as they relate to working conditions, retention and attraction, and socio-economic factors. Risk management strategies, as they related to each of the issues, should be identified, as well as factors including a well thought out wellness program will contribute to organizational success in general.
2.What are the importance of collaboration among human resources, operational management and other departments within organizations in improving health and productivity of the employee at workplace?
With the rapidly changing business environment, oil and gas companies are transforming to being decentralized and agile. As a result, human resources function has evolved from being purely administrative role to that of a strategic business partner that demands interaction across the organization for improved efficiencies and performance.
Workplace health and safety policies and programs are of critical concern where heavy industrial construction and technical competency are fundamental components of the work environment. The Oil and Gas industry operates under very strict safety standards and government regulations to ensure the well-being of workforce…
The industry makes use of many different activities in all the sectors of the business cycle: from upstream to downstream. Health, safety and environment standards are applied at all levels of operations and therefore departments must collaborate together to implement programs that promote health, safety and resultant productivity.
3. According to IPIECA, fatigue is the state of tiredness that is associated with long hours of work, prolonged periods without sleep and requirement to work when would normally be resting. How can organizations manage fatigue risks especially in oil and gas operations that employ workers in geographyically remote areas?
The American Petroleum Institute defines fatigue as: “reduced mental and physical functioning caused by sleep deprivation and/or being awake during normal sleep hours. This may result from extended work hours, insufficient opportunities for sleep, failure to use available sleep opportunities, or the effect of sleep disorders, medical conditions or pharmaceuticals, which reduce sleep or increase sleepiness”.
Fatigue is associated with shift work and overtime and links have been identified between fatigue and industrial disasters. Fatigue is also associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
Fatigue is determined by a multitude of Work-related factors such as shift schedule design, overtime and on-call arrangements, commute, environmental conditions and access to food and water, type of work, task design, staffing levels, breaks within shifts, safety culture, pay structures, commitment to fatigue risk management, sleep environment and individual factors such as sleep environment, sleep disorders, health, domestic and social commitments, commute, commitment to fatigue risk management, sleep hygiene, age, secondary employment.
In order to provide comprehensive protection from the impaired performance caused by fatigue, an organization should carry out a risk assessment and then institute fatigue risk management plan which gives consideration to all these factors. An effective fatigue risk management should recognize that fatigue is the joint responsibility of employers and employees and that communication, consultation and commitment on both parts are essential.
The fatigue risk management plan should take into account operational experience and practicalities and should be integrated into corporate safety and health management system.
4.Some offshore specialists routinely move from one installation to another and tend to have no fixed work and leave cycle how does that impact performance of the employee?
Most offshore personnel are employed long-term on one installation, where their work schedules form a regular pattern. The schedule is usually planned months in advance. However, specialist personnel working on ‘ad-hoc’ basis are required to travel to different installations where and when required to meet particular operational needs. Consequently, these personnel are likely to work irregular and/or unpredictable schedules.
The working time arrangements operated in different areas worldwide depend largely on factors such as travel times and distances between the installation and the shore, employees’ home location, the mode of travel and prevailing weather conditions, along with local and national employment practices. Most schedules are based on equal-time work/leave cycles for employees. In general, specialists tend to work on longer rotations so as to reduce the time and costs involved.
Long work hours are an integral feature of offshore employment, irrespective of a particular work schedule. Fatigue is potentially a serious problem for all offshore personnel.
Work on offshore installations involves potentially hazardous production and/or drilling operations. The intensive work patterns, the nature of tasks involved, and the effect of fatigue, are potential sources of risk to the safety and well-being of personnel. There is the operational risk of explosion, fire, structural failure, shut-down, reduced productivity resulting from human error and impaired performance, and risk to the physical and psychological well-being such as injury, illness, sleep disturbance, anxiety. Moreover, the family problems resulting from the offshore lifestyle may indirectly on the well-being and work performance of the offshore specialist. Long hours and fatigue may impair performance during the offshore work and may carry over into travel during and adjustment to, shore breaks.
On arrival offshore, workers need time to recover from travel fatigue, to adjust to work routine, and to become familiar with any operational changes that occurred while they were away. This adjustment typically takes 2-3 days from the period of shore leave and during this time, work performance may be adversely affected.
Recovery from fatigue requires adequate rest to replenish mental and physical exhaustion. A period of recovery makes people feel capable and ready for the next phase and prevents the accumulation of fatigue and the serious health consequences as a result.Rest and recovery does not necessarily mean doing nothing. Time spent on social and physical activities that are enjoyable facilitate recovery and well-being and performance on return to work.
5.What advice would you offer to Senior Management who would like to improve employee health outcomes and productivity?
Considering the occupational, physical and psychosocial stressors in this industry, employee wellness programs are a strategic imperative. A pro-active approach promoting employee wellbeing through a variety of well thought out initiatives and interventions will drive employee productivity, engagement and retention and meet new social expectation. Adopting a long-term strategic approach to employee health and well-being is key to ensuring that your organization and its people thrive.