There are a lot of important things related to the number 42.
There are 42 US gallons in a barrel of oil. The three best-selling music albums – Michael Jackson’s Thriller, AC/DC’s Back in Black and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon – all last 42 minutes. Buzz Lightyear’s spaceship is called 42. Cricket has 42 laws (apparently!)
I’ll leave you to decide which is the most important out of those.
According to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the number 42 is “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything!” But for us as an industry, it represents a great division of opinion. Why? Think about it; what does three on/three off, or 21 + 21 equal? 42.
If 42 is the answer, then the question must be how to address cost efficiency challenges. But it’s only the answer for some; for others, it’s a loss of livelihood, an erosion of standards and the perception that operations will be run less safely.
I’ve been asked a few times what Step Change’s position is on the proposed 3/3 rota. In 2012, Step Change published guidance on offshore rotas and rest periods. The document is specifically aimed for OIMs and explains the limits on the number of days that can be worked offshore, depending on shift rotation. It also refers to general principles found in the HSE Policy on Working Hours Offshore 8/2008, and to key points in working time legislation.
As an organisation which represents every part of the industry (operators, contractors, unions and regulators), whatever Step Change’s position, it will be one that is agreed on by every company Step Change represents. But as I’m sure you’re aware, and as is expected in such a vast and varied industry, not all parties are on the same page.
Regardless of our opinions on rotas, none of us can escape the fact that we all work in an industry where the bedrock is interdependent relationships. Our Workforce Engagement Survey has shown that across the UKCS, when teams work together more consistently and in the correct environment, there is an increase in safety engagement and they can deliver improved site efficiency. This must continue.
Operators need the expertise of contractors, who are supported by the innovation and ingenuity of a supply chain. Trade unions and associations need members to represent, and workers need jobs where the risks they are exposed to are properly controlled by regulators. We are all economically and morally reliant on, and responsible to, each other. Each sector has a different offering when we navigate through challenges like this; challenges which will affect the whole industry in one way or another.
We cannot face the changes without involvement, consultation or engagement on unprecedented levels. Our actions and decisions will have consequences for workers, companies, families and communities for years to come, 42 or not.
Les Linklater is an executive director at Step Change in Safety