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Clean challenge

Enhancing the working environment for offshore catering workers remains a priority for the PSA, seven years after an improvement drive was launched in this area. Anti-exclusion measures and training are key issues.

A project on offshore catering launched in May 2001 produced a number of optimistic proposals for solving problems in this business. But the willingness to implement them has varied greatly within the industry. The joint industry project was established because the regulator found that many downsizings and changes were having consequences for catering work. Four working groups drawn from unions, employers and government studied conditions in this sector, and their joint report in Norwegian on Boost for catering described the systematic work and training needed to establish a fully acceptable working environment.

During 2003-04, the report was followed up with conferences and supervisory activities directed at operators and catering contractors on the NCS. The companies were then asked to assess the status in their own operations, based on the issues outlined in the report. This was to be followed by plans for improvement and training.
“We found considerable variation, with frame conditions and practice best among catering personnel employed directly by operators,” says PSA principal engineer Hilde Heber.

The management committee for the project recommended that the OLF should establish an employer-union collaboration on joint training programmes for catering.
“However, the industry wanted the problems to be resolved locally,” explains principal engineer Tone Guldbrandsen.

The PSA audited some major players in 2006, but once again preferred to mobilise the industry to make its own commitment.

A new broad-based cross-industry audit covering the management of cleaning, hygiene and the working environment in the catering sector was carried out in the spring of 2007. The companies were asked to describe their own efforts to prevent health damage and exclusion of workers, and their routines for cleaning, hygiene, training and division of responsibility. “This audit revealed considerable variation,” Ms Guldbrandsen notes. “While the best are really good, a number of companies have a major improvement potential.

“Far too many had substantial weaknesses in their systems for monitoring, involvement and not least training. We actually wonder whether there’s suffi cient interest in giving this group adequate training in relation to the health risk it faces.
“A big job remains to be done in this area.”