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Follow-up of groups exposed to risk leads to lower absence due to illness

The risk of becoming injured, ill and excluded from working life is unevenly distributed. Better follow-up of groups exposed to risks may result in lower absence due to illness and prevent exclusion.


The PSA has adopted a set of main priorities for 2010 where action will have the biggest impact and which call for special attention. These focus on management, technical and operational barriers, preventing environmental harm and groups particularly exposed to risk.

PSA’s main priorities for 2010

On the whole, employees in contractor and sub-contractor companies are more exposed to risk, and face more risk factors in their working environment than employees in operating companies.

In spite of larger risk of becoming ill, the systematic follow-up of risk and illness which may be related to work carried out by contractor groups, is weaker than for the operator groups.

In the RNNP's questionnaire survey, different groups of employees report large differences when it comes to health injuries caused by work. Overviews of work-related illness confirm such differences.
It is, for example, evident that employees in the ISO disciplines (isolation, scaffolding and surface treatment) face great challenges in this area. Catering is also a group which stands out with a high degree of absence due to illness.

Follow-up
Insufficient identification and follow-up of employee groups exposed to risk may result in absence due to illness and exclusion.

In audits, the PSA has uncovered that management elements which should contribute to safeguarding a safe working environment, are clearly weaker for contractors than for operating companies.

The risks are, for example, insufficiently mapped and assessed in the contractor groups. Consequently, the companies and their managements do not have sufficient basis for providing correct training in relation to risks, nor to develop measures to prevent illness and absence due to illness. Missing clarification of responsibility, shortage of expertise and limited access to the workplace to conduct risk assessments, are issues which contribute to this picture.

Link
At the same time, the PSA sees that the players can become better at linking work on facilitation and follow-up of absence with preventive efforts directed at groups exposed to risk.

IA work is often placed in HR departments without ensuring that sufficient communication is established between the HR and HSE departments.

There are also several examples of contractors and sub-contractors not facilitating work for people who are ill on landbased or offshore facilities. Instead, the employees are offered facilitated work elsewhere in the landbased organisation. The weakness of such an arrangement is that important information on possible causes in the working environment remains unrelated to the work site, thus preventing strengthening of the preventive work.

Framework conditions
Different framework conditions may influence the contractors' and sub-contractors' possibilities to conduct preventive work, as well as following up individuals who are ill and need work facilitation. Important framework conditions may comprise contractual issues, the manner in which work is organized through use of several contract units and campaign work, the resource and staffing situation, as well as bunk and helicopter capacity.

Such framework conditions can make it difficult for a contractor to adapt the work to individuals, particularly if the consequence is that more than one person has to go offshore to get the job done. Use of campaign work and increased "nomadic activity" may also contribute to preventing an overview of the total risk exposure for groups travelling between offshore and landbased facilities.

Several units
Use of several contracting units is another framework condition which impacts the follow-up of potential groups exposed to risk. Several contracting units and increased use of hired personnel create challenges for communication, clarification of roles and responsibility in the follow-up of groups exposed to risk, and work involved in absence due to illness.

Consequently, adaptation work and follow-up of groups potentially exposed to risk is not just an issue for the contractor, but must be seen as a challenge in the cross-section between the operator and the contractor - to be addressed by both.

The question is what the players on different levels in the industry can do to develop the framework conditions to ensure better follow-up of these contractor groups.

Risks
Illness, absence due to illness and exclusion may be the result of several factors, and must also be seen in light of the risks related to the particular workplace, the companies' ability and possibility to control them and the current framework conditions.

In audit activities directed at operators' and contractors' work to identify and follow-up risk-exposed groups, the PSA has also requested that the companies give an account of important framework conditions, and how these may influence the contractors' work to prevent and follow up illness.

In a meeting between the PSA and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) in the autumn of 2009, several key challenges were identified in relation to facilitation/the IA work in the industry. It was acknowledged that even if some measures are working, new activities are required, for example active adaptation of the framework conditions, pursuing knowledge/exchange of experience, increased participation and better follow-up on the part of the authorities.

A partner group was established to continue working on these issues in 2010. Both the PSA and NAV participate in this group.

Contact information
Irene B. Dahle, Principal Engineer
E-mail: IreneB.Dahle@ptil.no