Norway’s requirements for a good working environment and reducing occupational risk must be met regardless of whether personnel are permanent employees or contract workers.
Insiders and outsiders
The petroleum industry’s use of temporary personnel has been monitored for many years by the PSA, with a number of challenges clarified so far.
“One is that systematic follow-up of the working environment can be weaker for contract workers than for permanent employees,” says Sigve Knudsen, a PSA director of supervisory activities.
“Examples include lack of working environment surveys, reduced use of the company health service and poorer follow-up of people on sick leave.
“Challenges also exist in relation to operational parameters, customising work, language, management of expertise and understanding of risk.
“And personnel hired on a temporary basis are likely to find themselves more on the sidelines for employee participation and the safety delegate service.”
The main rule in Norway is that employees must be given a permanent job with no set end date. In specific cases, however, personnel can be appointed or hired temporarily.
But the right to a good working environment and the rules on preventing occupational ill-health and work-related injury apply regardless.
Hiring temporary workers in the petroleum industry is most relevant in periods with a high level of activity and a big demand for extra personnel.
“We’re concerned to see how operating parameters influence risk and risk management,” says Eva Hølmebakk in the PSA’s working environment discipline.
“And we want to see how the players work, both individually and collectively, to develop frameworks which can help to reduce risk.
“We’ve looked, for example, at how possible negative aspects of the parameters specified in ISS contracts are assessed and followed up.
“These trades have a number of characteristics related to risk exposure and operating parameters which can be difficult to manage in achieving a fully acceptable working environment.”
Supervision of contract workers has been addressed together with other issues either at group level – such as ISS at a plant – or in operator follow-up of contractors and sub-suppliers.
“In our experience, HSE responsibility and follow-up of contract personnel by and large function well with the big ISS contractors in the petroleum industry,” says Hølmebakk.
“Many of them have learnt good HSE management, and that’s important in relation to contracts with operators and the major contractors.”
The PSA and the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority have worked in recent years to acquire a better overview of the scope and use of contract personnel in the fabrication and petroleum sectors.
Also covering the way these workers are followed up in the HSE area, a key part of the project has been to assess whether risk, management of the working environment and personal injury risk differ between permanent and temporary employees.
The work has been carried out in cooperation with research teams at the NTNU, the Fafo foundation and Safetec. Its findings had not been published when this issue went to press, but will be available at www.psa.no (in Norwegian only) from mid-February.
“Current changes in the petroleum industry are raising many new issues and challenges related to the use of contract personnel,“ notes Knudsen.
“These include such questions as the consequences for these employees of the pressure on costs, demands for improved efficiency, cuts and downsizing among suppliers.
“Others are the significance of increased operational and maintenance costs, and perhaps big fluctuations in labour requirements.
“Will new methods for organising work emerge? Will operating parameters change? Will the use of temporary personnel increase? And how will all this affect safety and the working environment?”
Knudsen promises that the PSA will continue to give priority to this work, and strive to find answers to these questions.