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Dealing with the dark side

A larger number of serious accidents occur during the night than in daytime,and night working can have negative health effects. So limiting such activity to the minimum required for acceptable operation is important.

The PSA regulates night work for several reasons.  These include concern for the safety of people, the environment and material values and a desire to reduce health damage and occupational handicaps in the long-term.

“It’s been documented that working at night increases the risk of human error and accidents,” observes principal engineer Øyvind Lauridsen, the PSA’s specialist on this subject.

“After correcting for the level of activity, serious personal injuries were no less than 30 per cent higher for night workers than their daytime colleagues on the NCS during 2001-06.  “And working at night is associated with negative health effects over the long term.”

Norway’s offshore HSE regulations state that jobs must be “planned so that as much work as possible is done in daytime, and so that the employees are assured necessary restitution and rest.“ This requirement has been fl eshed out in guidelines and letters of interpretation, and work is under way to make it even clearer.

“Since working at night increases the risk of errors and accidents, regulating its incidence accords with our risk-based approach,” Mr Lauridsen notes.  He adds that the PSA’s approach also means that night work can be permitted under specifi ed conditions – if it can be documented that this would reduce the risk of accidents and health damage, for instance.

Sleeping badly and working while tired is another risk factor. Sharing a cabin can make it harder to obtain adequate restitution and rest, and represents a big problem for those involved.  Crew on most of Norway’s offshore installations now usually sleep alone. Conditions here have been improved by converting double cabins to single, expanding the living quarters and better planning of operations.

On some fi elds, however, extensive sharing of cabins is still required. Plans call for new quarters to be built there in the near future, so that the problem will only be temporary.

In the meantime, the position is being moderated to some extent by the hire of fl otels and improved planning of activities in relation to accommodation. Shared cabins remain somewhat more widespread on mobile units, particularly for certain categories of workers. Much can also be improved here through better planning and cooperation between owner and operator on implementing necessary maintenance and modifi cations.

Claims have been made that reducing night work will enhance the overall risk of accidents because it would increase the need for double cabins. Such fears are groundless, says Mr Lauridsen.  “Both night work and sharing cabins can cause tiredness, which in turn represents a safety risk.  Reducing one problem by increasing another would be unacceptable.

“That would be the same as compensating for the rules on rest periods for lorry drivers by accepting higher speeds to achieve the same productivity.”