A new report released by Robert Gordon University (RGU) has said that those on a three weeks on/three weeks off rotas (3/3) are almost twice as likely to experience ill health by comparison to those on 2/2 shifts.
Carried out for the benefit of the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA), the Review of 3 and 3 Rotation in Operation report highlights the mental and physical exhaustion felt by those on the altered shift pattern.
The OCA and its member companies committed to funding the report as part of an agreement with the recognised trade unions in 2015/16.
A joint working party was established in 2017 including the OCA, ACAS and three trade unions – GMB, Unite and RMT, who commissioned RGU to undertake an independent study.
The report claims those on 3/3 rotas were more likely to impact their health, with the length of shift pattern also blamed for exacerbating health issues.
The report also found that the 2/2 shift pattern does not meaningfully impact workers’ health and sits closer to the national average.
The report said “those on the 2/2 rota report a response pattern more like the UK average, where work does not impact upon health for most. Those on 3/3 rotas and those who work externally on the installation are more likely to report that their symptoms were caused, or made worse, by work.
“The aggregated mean fatigue score for all respondents is consistent with a level of normal fatigue. The mean for those on a 3/3 rota rises to a level indicating substantial fatigue. The perceived impact of fatigue related to declining concentration and possibility of increased errors in the workplace.
“Workers are spending longer offshore and 57% of respondents reported that the sleeping environment has deteriorated.”
The report authors said longer rotas will “compound” the sleeping environment of those offshore, alongside a reported increase in cabin sharing, which the report claims may increase the poor health effects.
Jake Molloy of RMT Union said: “The executive summary reflects what we anticipated but we really want to get into the guts of the full report next week. The complaints have been there since the imposition of 3/3 and they continue to be there.
“The workforce have been telling us this for some considerable time but I think we need to now drill down into the real detail that this report actually carries and see what can be done and what the industry should be doing to remedy the ills that face the guys [offshore].”
The report also said that in accordance with the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well Being Scale (WEMWBS) the state of wellbeing of those on 3/3 is lower than the national average.
A spokesman for the OCA, said: “The OCA is pleased to see that there appears to be no negative impact on safety across the rotas, however we are very conscious that respondents perceive an adverse impact to health and wellbeing as a consequence of some of the rota patterns.”
Tommy Campbell, from Unite, said: “It is shocking and very disappointing that the OCA have chosen not to accurately reflect what the RGU survey results are saying.
“It’s the offshore workers who have responded to the RGU survey and it is certainly not their perception, it is it in fact their reality of the experience of working the exhausting 21 days plus 12 hours each day 3/3 rota.
“Unite is requiring the Oil and Gas Employers plus the OCA to seriously engage with the workforce and their Unions to examine ways of returning to less stressful and exhausting work rotas.
“Meantime we will now be consulting the offshore workers to gage from them what they wish to do next should the employers refuse to discuss a return to better and more suitable work rotations.”
Dr Alix Thom, workforce engagement and skills manager, Oil & Gas UK, said: “We are aware that the views of some workers on 3:3 rotas are more negative about certain issues. OCA employers – and industry more widely – will take time to consider the report which will provide a better understanding of concerns raised.
“The health, well-being and safety of our people is of absolute importance to our sector which has robust HSE and occupational health-related guidelines in place for managing the offshore workforce. We look forward to reading the findings in full.”