“Good knowledge of the working environment provides a sound basis for prioritising measures,” says Elisabeth Vaagen of the PSA's working environment division.
“Preventive measures must be based on what we know is most important for employees’ work situations. In order to take the most appropriate and beneficial steps in preventive work, knowledge is essential. The working environment differs from workplace to workplace. Knowledge is therefore required both of the challenges the company faces and of the local challenges in the individual department. This involves posing questions about the specific challenges in one’s own workplace and then implementing measures.
Examples of working environment conditions of importance for health and safety can be working hours, work distribution, workload, competence and complexity, interaction and human-machine interfaces. This requires us to be familiar with the tasks undertaken by the group whose risks we want to manage or with the working environment that we want to improve”, says Vaagen.
Management of the working environment
In June, the PSA organized a seminar on the relationship between the working environment, health and safety.
“In the seminar, we chose to mainly focus on organisational and psychosocial working environment factors. Based on our experiences from our audits, we saw a need to highlight the importance of these factors for health and safety. It is however important that physical, chemical and ergonomic factors are also assessed, individually and collectively, both in terms of health risks and safety risks”, says Vaagen.
Here you can download presentations from the seminar on management of the working environment (In Norwegian only): Sammenheng mellom arbeidsmiljø, helse og sikkerhet (13 June 2022)
The PSA monitors that the companies have systems and routines for preventing work-related illness, injury and major accidents, and that they survey the working environment, identify risk areas and groups, and implement and follow up measures. Holistic risk assessment is key.
Vaagen emphasises the importance of systematic preventive working environment measures and of the companies examining the various working environment factors, safety risks and health risks in context.
“It is necessary to assess both the risks associated with the individual elements and the overall risk”, she says.
“The companies in the petroleum industry must prioritise preventive and systematic management of the working environment in their daily safety work. Each company must take ownership of risk, ensure that risk is assessed holistically and facilitate cooperation and genuine participation.”
Working hours, the use of overtime and night work are risk factors that must be assessed and managed in the same way as other types of risk. Both as health risks and as safety risks.
"From research, we know that shift and night work, as well as long working hours, can have negative consequences for health and safety. The risk of undesirable incidents and work accidents increases with the increase in the number of hours worked, and especially when working beyond 12 hours. Many shift workers struggle to function at work and to get enough sleep between work sessions”, says Vaagen.
Figures from RNNP (Trends in Risk Level in the Norwegian Petroleum Activity) show that the more overtime workers perform, the more stressful they perceive it to be and the less rest and recovery time they have available. The proportion who find that they work so much overtime that it becomes stressful has increased steadily, from ten per cent in 2015 to about 20 per cent in 2021.
Observations from audits show many examples of defective management of working hours:
- Work performed beyond 16 hours a day. RNNP data shows that almost 16 per cent state that they have worked beyond 16 hours a day in the past year
- Work in excess of the maximum number of working hours per year
- Frequent use of extended offshore periods and extra callouts
- A lack of both recording of hours worked and follow-up of working hours. We also see insufficient use of such data
- We see working hours schemes that are not compliant with regulatory requirements
- Inadequate work-free periods both as a result of overtime that extends normal working hours, but also of nighttime callouts.
- Working hours are insufficiently included in assessments of the overall workload, cumulative risk such as hearing damage from noise, risk of fatigue or in analyses of the organisational and psychosocial working environment
“In summary, we see that this as an area that the industry must give extra priority to. The challenges are also closely related to the PSA's Main theme for 2022: Capacity and competence – the key to safety. We know that inadequate capacity and competence have been identified as non-conformities in many of our audits and that related factors have also been contributory causes of a number of serious incidents in the last couple of years.
The companies have a special responsibility for ensuring that the staffing level is sufficient at all times to fulfil all conditions and requirements, including facing situations with high workloads, illness and unforeseen circumstances. This also includes the responsibility to ensure that working hours are justifiable”, says Vaagen.