The HSE regulations stipulate special requirements for working hours schemes offshore. Work offshore is characterised by lengthy and intensive periods of work and by a relatively large share of the hours worked taking place on night shift. Not uncommonly there will also be overtime, and the stays offshore sometimes get extended.
Little is known about the specific health consequences of working offshore. However, a general insight into shift arrangements will provide a basis for further studies of the offshore schemes. In this respect, people are working to set up research that might give a more exact understanding of how the working hours schemes used in the petroleum activities might affect people’s health and ability to work, in the longer term.
In principle, work on the facilities should be planned so that as much as possible of the work is done during the daytime, and so that the employees are ensured the necessary rest and restitution.
Working hours at the land facilities
For major projects at the land facilities, schemes with more concentrated working hours are being used to an increasing degree. There has been a particular focus on the so-called commuting schemes used for major projects. A commuting scheme may mean that the person works up to 12 hours every day for 14 consecutive days, followed by three weeks off. We have challenged the industry and the relevant parties on whether the schemes that are being set up are appropriate from a health and safety point of view. Compared to offshore, the framework conditions are different on land.
Shift arrangements and night work – importance for health and safety
Our own statistics on serious personal injuries during the years 2001-2012 show clearly that the serious personal injury rate is higher for night-time than for daytime work – when the level of activity is taken into account.
Several studies from non-petroleum industries have also demonstrated that the risk of incidents increases for night work. Many laboratory studies have shown that tiredness and a disturbed diurnal rhythm reduce a person’s alertness, judgment and ability to react. Switching between night and day causes sleep problems and diurnal disturbances that affect alertness and mental performance: