Comment: Healthy bodies mean healthy profits offshore

As attention turns to safety offshore at this week’s Piper 25 conference, health must not become safety’s poor relation. There is a huge emphasis on industry safety, and rightly so. But oil and gas operators also need to recognise that health plays an equally important role.

Not only is a physically and mentally healthy workforce a happy workforce, it is also more productive and effective. In 2009, Sodexo commissioned research through the University of Aberdeen Industrial Psychology Research Centre, which showed that there is a strong link between the level of wellbeing and a worker’s overall performance.

The research also showed that a healthier workforce is more alert to offshore safety risks. This potential for a reduced number of accidents should put the issue of offshore workers’ health at the forefront of employers’ minds.

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The message sounds simple: keep a workforce healthy and they will be more productive. But that is easier said than done. We live in an age of larger waistlines and endemic health conditions – diabetes, asthma and heart disease.

Oil & Gas UK is working alongside the Robert Gordon University’s Institute of Health and Welfare Research on a ground-breaking project which uses 3D scanners to measure the body sizes of offshore workers. This is the first scanning project of its kind since the mid-1980s, when the average weight of the offshore workforce was 19 per cent lower.

We approach an industry tipping point. Although healthy minds and bodies equate to a significantly improved balance sheet, we must put the wellbeing of Scotland’s offshore workforce before targets and trading.

The chances of offshore workers having health problems have increased now that the North Sea is employing more workers for longer operations. Simple but effective measures must be taken to ensure that workers are healthy. A balance of work and play, nutritious eating and sufficient rest will result in a healthy workforce that is not only more productive, but also happier and safer.

• Simon Seaton is chief operating officer with Sodexo’s Western Region for Remote Sites. He will be speaking today at the Piper 25 conference.