NOPSEMA cautions against extended rosters due to mental health concerns

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NOPSEMA cautions against extended rosters due to mental health concerns NOPSEMA cautions against extended rosters due to mental health concerns NOPSEMA cautions against extended rosters due to mental health concerns NOPSEMA cautions against extended rosters due to mental health concerns NOPSEMA cautions against extended rosters due to mental health concerns

Risk of fatigue, anxiety and stress could lead to major accidents

Mark Tilly

Journalist

 THE National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority has warned against the overlong rosters some operators have put in place in a bid to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there has been a lack of consideration for the fatigue and mental health of workers. 

While the regulator acknowledged operators have been introducing swings which include two weeks in isolation to manage the risk of spreading COVID-19, it has received concerns in relation how these changes to rosters have been introduced. 

It said there had been insufficient workforce consultation in relation to the changes, a lack of consideration into the psychological hazards placed on workers and their families and poor communication in how these changes would be carried out. 

It pointed to the large body of evidence highlighting fly-in-fly-out workers suffer from higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress symptoms, and extended rosters could exacerbate these issues.  

The regulator said operators should not assume "predominantly sound levels of psychological health across its workforce". 

It also said there was a lack of consideration on how the change in rosters could lead to a major accident, due to the fatigue risks associated with long work stints.  

The regulator said it has undertaken some inspections to proposed roster changes and would continue to ensure facility operators use appropriate workforce consultation, risk assessment and management. 

"Operators introducing changes to their rosters in response to COVID-19 should ensure that risk assessments for fatigue and psychosocial hazards are undertaken, comprehensive, and involve extensive workforce consultation," the regulator said. 

Last month Woodside Petroleum backed down from plans to send contractors offshore for 12-week stints, after a two week period of isolation.

The 12-week work stint has been attacked by unions, suggesting it was a "catastrophically unsafe" plan for Western Australia workers. 

However a source familiar with the matter told Energy News some of Woodside's workforce were supportive of the extended stint thanks to the A$50,000 bonus they would have received. 

Woodside's new plan will be two weeks' isolation, four weeks on-swing and two weeks off.

"This temporary model has been developed in consultation with our workforce to ensure we keep our people and communities safe, while maintaining the supply of gas to Western Australia and complying with state government border controls and travel restrictions," a Woodside spokesperson told Energy News this morning.

Border closures across the country in response to the pandemic have left operators scrambling to arrange exemptions for interstate and overseas workforces traveling to remote sites across the country. 

Woodside chief Peter Coleman said last month the company was working with the Australian Border Force to allow in some foreign specialist staff, "particularly in areas like major compressors and so forth".




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