Those attending the landmark Offshore Europe conference in Aberdeen this week are being urged to keep the mental health of workers at the forefront of their minds.
The North Sea chapter of the International Association of Drilling Contractors – which is working to improve mental health awareness in the industry – has issued the call ahead of the oil and gas showcase getting underway tomorrow.
Thousands of people from some of the world’s biggest companies will gather in Aberdeen this week to discuss the energy transition, decommissioning and the future of the industry.
It will be the first time since 2019 that Offshore Europe will have been held in-person, after Covid-19 forced the event to go virtual in 2021.
But amid the plethora of tools, technology and talks, there are concerns that the wellbeing of workers could be pushed to the bottom of the agenda.
Darren Sutherland, chairman of the IADC’s North Sea chapter, said: “There will be plenty of tangible assets on display at Offshore Europe as companies discuss ways to ensure they are able to provide value for shareholders.
“However, while the tools on display will be able to help drive the energy sector forward, they depend on the human capital that drives the industry. That is why it is critical we maintain the momentum already gathered in our commitment to ensure the physical and mental well-being of everyone involved in the industry.
“It’s an issue so important a special taskforce has been set-up, and we are determined to make a difference to the men and women – and their families – at the head of our industry. The sector would be at a loss without the talent the North Sea possesses, and it is critical we do our best to support their mental health and wellbeing.
“We know there is an appetite for changing how we approach mental health, something that was illustrated by the hundreds of people that attended our event to launch this campaign.”
An issue that needs attention
Mental health issues within the industry were thrown into sharp focus earlier this year after a report revealed 40% of offshore workers had experienced suicidal thoughts while on duty.
A sector wide event, hosted in collaboration with Energy Voice, was subsequently held to dive deeper into the subject, with the IADC publishing its Mental Health and Well-being Charter.
It was drafted following consultation with almost 200 people from operators, contractors, mental health professionals and third sector organisations.
To tie in with Offshore Europe, the first meeting of the working party will take place on Thursday when representatives from organisations including Ineos, Mental Health Aberdeen, EY, Wood, OEUK and Dolphin Drilling will gather to discuss how the group can ensure lasting change.
Companies including Aker Solutions, Expro, Ithaca Energy, Proserv and Borr Drilling have all pledged to support the movement, launched in an effort to drive cultural change in how the energy sector approaches mental health.
The maiden meeting of the task force takes place before World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, September 10, which focuses on educing stigma and raising awareness.
Mr Sutherland added: “We want companies to sign up to the Charter, not because they think they should, but because they want to make a difference to the industry. There is a positive return on this investment for firms that sign up, adopt and embrace the challenge of tackling poor mental health.
“Enhanced mental health can lead to more productivity among staff, fewer days off and a happier environment to work in. Above all else, it can help save lives.”