How can the oil and gas industry improve mental health

While Chrysaor’s chief executive Phil Kirk has stated that no job losses will occur at this time. This move will cause worry for those involved. For employees that transfer, adjusting to the new company culture and ways of working could cause stress, worry and health issues.

Currently, in the oil and gas industry, mental health issues are one of the less publicised risks facing workers. Though much focus is put on physical health and ensuring superior completion of training certificates, less focus has been on tracking the mental health of workers in the industry. Positive mental health often takes the form of people displaying good self-esteem, fulfilling relationships and displaying productivity, and more specifically in relation to oil and gas workers, knowing how to cope and deal with difficult and often hazardous situations.

‘’Psychosocial risks that are linked to the experience of work-related stress have been reported to be the second most prevalent work-related health problem, affecting 22% of workers in the European Union’’ International Association of Oil & Gas Producers

‘’Work-related mental ill health costs the UK economy up to £26 billion every year through lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity’’ MIND

And it’s not just those working on-site in the oil and gas industry that are affected. 2015 and 2016 saw many company mergers and acquisitions across various industries including oil and gas, leading to culture changes, job losses and uncertainty for those working in more back-office roles. For example, in April 2015, The acquisition of  the oil and gas exploration firm BG for £36.4bn, resulted in over 10,000 job losses across its company in a bid to improve company efficiency and reduce its expenditure.
There are companies in the energy sector which are already tackling mental health amongst its workers, that have publicised the rewards for taking this approach. One such company is EDF Energy. Due to losing £1.4m in productivity because of mental health related issues, EDF Energy created the Employee Support Programme (ESP). This provides cognitive behavioural therapy to employees who feel they need it, training to managers to detect ill mental health and giving them further support on how to deal with employee issues that may arise with changes within the company. The ESP has resulted in a vast improvement in productivity and job satisfaction has risen steadily since its establishment. A high number of employees have also happily returned to work after mental health related absences, with an extremely low relapse rate. Similarly, Maersk have started to provide performance enhancement training for employees in their Drilling unit. This comprises of training and team-based exercises focusing on team-building, mental health and operational skills. EDF and Maersk are clearly taking strides in employee welfare, reducing the potential dangers of harm to their employees and their companies.

Providing ongoing training related to emotional intelligence and how to deal with stressful situations could also be beneficial, as new methods of working or unexpected events can create uncertainty should issues arise. This is already embraced by the aviation industry, where safety issues can cost hundreds of lives, a focus on human factors has taken prevalence. These include providing pilots with thorough training in the technology used so that human error in emergencies is minimised and in cases of emergencies, knowing best practices to keep everyone on board as calm as possible (including the pilot). This allows pilots to logically think through their options instead of the frantic rush of terror that may strike everyone else. Therefore, in the oil and gas industry, providing continuous updates on safety procedures and support workshops concerning how to deal with extreme and dangerous events could be beneficial to employees by lowering their stress levels and increasing their knowledge of what to do in those situations.

A further way companies could promote mental health is by testing for psychological resilience, as suggested by the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers. This could involve a monthly health questionnaire, with support provided where needed and the provision of resilience training in times of extreme stress.

Lastly, investing in health-related phone applications and online resources that provide monitoring, diagnosis and treatment could allow workers to get the help they need more efficiency, saving the company costs in terms of productivity and health related absences. Omada Health’s, ‘Prevent’ for example, incorporates an activity tracker and personal health coach that gives advice on how to deal with potential job pressures and what help to seek when required. Health apps that provide video visits with doctors can be a further comfort, as shown by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. They provided 325,000 video-visits to over 100,000 veterans, reducing psychiatric admissions by 24%. Technologies continue to be developed, such as, ‘Ellie’ which will be able to improve mental illness diagnoses through better factor measurement. As apps and online resources can be used in even the remotest of locations, these results are astounding and show the real value in their use.

‘’60% of consumers are willing to have a video visit with a physician through a mobile device and 88% are willing to share personal data with their doctor to find new treatments’’ PWC

There are many benefits for promoting mental health within the oil and gas industry. Firstly, making employees more aware of the mental health issues they may face can reduce the stigma associated with expressing feelings within this environment, allowing more of those suffering to come forward. Providing support and techniques for coping with mental health issues could also reduce the effects of them too, such as lower productivity or a reduction in physical health. This clearly benefits the industry, leading to greater job performance, staff retention and creation of a more positive environment for example. Team building exercises such Maersk’s can develop group cohesion, leading to lower rates of loneliness. Providing therapy as EDF Energy does can give help to those who need it most. Phone apps have the potential to reduce the number of mental health related incidences.

Petroplan looks forward to seeing practical solutions to helping employees remain well and welcome the growth in technology that could prove a great resource for both office teams and workers in remote locations.




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