This deal seeks to create a labour market with room for everyone, and thereby to increase the proportion of the Norwegian workforce actually in employment.
The first IA agreement between the government, the employers and the unions was concluded in 2001. Its latest version was signed in December 2018 and runs until 31 December 2022.
“Today’s agreement emphasises reinforcing systematic preventive efforts rather than individual measures,” says Anne Myhrvold, director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA). “That fits perfectly with our own strategy for following up the working environment.”
The PSA checks that Norway’s oil and gas industry offshore and at land-based plants has systems and routines in place to prevent occupational ill health and accidents.
This means that enterprises must chart their working environment, identify risk areas and groups facing a particular threat, and launch and follow up measures. Good knowledge of the working environment provides a solid basis for prioritising measures.
The parties to the IA agreement have agreed on two national goals. One is to cut sickness absence while the other calls for a reduction in the proportion of working-age people who do not return to work after an absence.
Overall sickness absence in Norway’s oil and gas industry is below the national average, but varies between different parts of the companies, workplaces, segments and groups of workers.
Clear signs can be seen that sickness absence is higher on offshore facilities and in land plants than at company offices ashore. Information acquired by the PSA suggests offshore sick leave is rising and may be above the national average.
Supplier industry employees take more sick leave than those in the operator companies, while offshore catering personnel are a group which has long experienced high levels of occupational ill health.
The PSA also has data which could indicate that persistent change processes and downsizing help to increase sickness absence.
The IA agreement gives emphasis to the government’s guiding role in efforts to achieve a good working environment.
A web portal due to be launched during 2020 and run by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority will bring together technical information and tools in this area as well as making them accessible.
It is intended to help enterprises to work systematically on preventing sickness absence, and to inspire the players to improve their working environment.
The National Institute of Occupational Health (Stami) will develop a lot of knowledge-based content for the portal, where the petroleum sector will have its own pages with dedicated tools.
“We give emphasis to communicating knowledge and facilitating exchange of experience between the companies,” observes Myhrvold. “We’re now taking a further step along the guidance path, and are confident this will have results.”
“We know a lot about the working environment in the oil and gas industry, which we’ll now be making available via the portal,” she says. “This knowledge is easy to use for enhancing a company’s psychosocial work conditions.
“Our goal is to help the companies to improve the way they work on preventing occupational injuries and illness.”
One of seven sector programmes which form another important element in the IA agreement covers the petroleum industry. Responsibility for this rests with the Federation of Norwegian Industries, along with relevant employer organisations and unions.
The supplier industry has been chosen for this programme because it is characterised by extensive and frequent changes which can make the sector vulnerable to high levels of sickness absence and worker drop-out.
A number of companies recruited to the sector programme will try out knowledge-based measures which can strengthen the working environment and keep absence down.
The PSA sits on the management committee for the programme as well as on two of its working parties.
“We believe the sector programme for the supplier industry and the working environment commitment will ensure a good improvement in psychosocial work conditions in the petroleum industry,” says Myhrvold.