What does it take to work offshore and thrive in that sometimes harsh environment? You need to be able to get along with your colleagues as you’ll be working and living in close proximity.
And not only will you have to get used to working away from home for two to three weeks at a time, but your family, too, will have to accept your working patterns.
You need to be fit and healthy to carry out your duties, which can involve lifting, climbing and using heavy equipment. Working days can be long and the weather conditions bleak offshore, so it’s important that you have the stamina for the job.
It simply isn’t the same as working in an office or an onshore engineering plant, and you must be physically up to it.
The best way to check that oil&gas industry employees are fit to work offshore is for all, without exception, to pass a medical examination on a regular basis.
The medical assessment required by law is today called an OGUK Offshore Medical. Even if you are young and consider yourself to be on top form, you must still undergo and pass an offshore medical examination. You may only be going to visit an installation for a couple of days, but you’ll still need that vital certificate.
Unless your GP has been authorised by Oil & Gas UK to issue OGUK Offshore Medical certificates (valid for two years) he/she will not be allowed to carry out the medical assessment.
If you think about it, you really need the examining doctor to have expert knowledge regarding the physical demands of the work and to understand the nature of the environment you will be working in.
You can find a list of UKOOA-approved medical practitioners on the Oil & Gas UK website, www.oilandgas.org.uk
Additionally, your colleagues will probably be able to recommend a reputable occupational healthcare provider that can offer you an appointment quickly and will carry out the examination efficiently.
Often, your employer will organise the medical examination for you, and some companies will require extra screenings such as drug and alcohol tests.
If you are considering a career in the sector, getting an OGUK certificate could be a good idea as it will tell you if you are fit enough in the first place.
The OGUK Offshore Medical is recognised in many parts of the world, although some countries have their own standards and you may need to have a specific medical to work in those locations. Your occupational healthcare practitioner will be able to advise you of these particular requirements.
If you are going to be working in Norwegian waters, you will need a Norwegian certificate, which is very similar to the OGUK and can be issued at the same time as an OGUK certificate.
A medical is straightforward and takes about an hour-and-a-half from start to finish. It includes:
A questionnaire (which will contain your contact details, current employment information and brief and easy-to-complete medical information).
Blood pressure and pulse reading.
Hearing test – audiometric.
Height and weight check, in order to calculate your BMI.
Peak flow measurement.
Medical examination by an OGUK-approved medical practitioner.
You will be asked to provide a urine sample, too.
Such a screening makes sense for an offshore worker. For your own safety, you need to see clearly what you are doing when handling dangerous equipment. You would have to react quickly in an emergency situation and so it’s vital to be able to hear any safety announcements that might be broadcast.
Two of the most common reasons for failing the medical assessment are dental problems and being overweight. These can lead to an individual having to go back onshore for treatment, and among the drawbacks of being overweight is not being able to exit a confined space in an emergency situation.
So it’s a good idea to visit your dentist and get your teeth checked well in advance of your offshore medical so that any problems can be rectified. If you know you are overweight then now is the time to consider your dietary habits.
Once the medical has been completed successfully you’ll have the certification to prove that you are physically “fit for purpose” – and that’s always good to know.
Dr Lisa Harper is a senior medical officer at Abermed, a leading provider of occupational healthcare and industrial medical services. For further information, see www.abermed.com