Housing for Oil and Gas Workers

housing for oil and gas workersFind Your Happy Place – 5 Star Housing for Oil and Gas Workers in Remote Areas

If there is one thing that can keep oil and gas employees who work on a remote site happy, it’s premium accommodations.  Since most oil and gas industry remote-area workers originate from distant places, they want to replicate their own home environment as much as possible. Included are a few suggestions to reach that goal.

Feeling Special

When hard working employees feel special and appreciated, they’re one step closer to being loyal to their employer.  Keep in mind, it might not take much for an employee that required a large amount of resources to find, to jump ship to the competing company if the quality of life they’re subjected to is representative of a cost-cutting manoeuver by the accounting department.

Start Here

Providing at least 60% of home-like conditions is a good starting place. The idea of a ‘home away from home’ really resonates with oil and gas workers when they can come home to a fully functional residential unit. The kind of accommodations referred to goes beyond the motel experience and may be just shy of a four-star semi-luxury hotel stay.

Wish List

There are a few ‘must-haves’ for worker accommodations. This means the heart of the unit must have a kitchen – complete with a microwave oven, a good size refrigerator (not a mini-bar fridge), large sink with a filtered-water dispenser, table and chairs, and a pantry to store their non-perishable groceries.

The living area should have at least a 40”HDTV, and an entertainment center complete with CD, DVD, and MP4 players.  There should be a self-service laundry room nearby, as well as a gym and fitness center with advanced equipment, and an internet café with Wi-Fi throughout the complex. Sleeping accommodations should include a full-size bed (not a single or twin) in a bedroom with a decent amount of storage.

Talent Pool

It is crucial to remember that replacing an experienced professional or technical resource is approximately one-and-one-half times their annual salary so it is in the best interest of employers to have employee accommodation as a high priority. As oilrig workers value their accommodations they may allow that to be a deciding factor in whom they work for.

Healthy & Happy

Having all the comforts of home is not only a good start, but acts as a central hub for providing other perks that impact health and performance such as sleep, nutrition and relaxation.

Unfortunately, irregular sleep patterns are a fact of life for most oilrig employees due to their long work hours.  High levels of attention are required when observing proper safety precautions over the course of a single day and this is only possible with adequate amounts of restful sleep.

Proper nutrition plays a similar role in ensuring this kind of performance at peak levels. Getting the proper nutrition is an absolute must to perform at optimum levels for long hours in inclement conditions, says Christopher Wanjek a health and science writer.

It’s also very important to permit sufficient time to relax after a grueling work day.  The key in this process is the ability to ‘shut off’ the workday and enjoy undistracted leisure time.

It’s Just Business 

From a purely business perspective, happy and healthy workers are good for the bottom line.  Since employees can spend more than half of a 24-hour day on the job, the rest of the day is theirs.  To that end, worker retention and performance can suffer if their quality of life is substantially lower than what they’re accustomed to at home. To retain employees when there is a lacking workforce and to maintain high quality performance from all workers it is necessary for employers to show their appreciation by investing in quality accommodations for their teams.

Personal Safety in the Shipping Industry

personal safety in the shipping industryPersonal Safety in the Shipping Industry

No one working in the shipping industry ever wants to hear the cry of, “Man overboard!” Thankfully, the advances in technology in personal safety in the shipping industry have improved the chances of rescue, should an accident occur. These developments have happened because of the need of maritime operators to meet certain safety standards for their crews and ships. Leading the charge is the Automatic Identification System (AIS). Every ship would benefit by being equipped with this type of transmission beacon.

When accessed, the AIS can provide a ship’s identity and global position. This can help a great deal in emergencies. Now, shipboard AIS technology has been pared down to a personal transmitter. The AIS Survivor Recovery System will revolutionize the way rescues are performed.

One of the first such transmitters put into wide use is the SafeLink R10 AIS SRS. The design of these units allows them to fit into a pocket or in a special holder on a lifejacket. For especially hazardous zones they can even be sewn into the protective gear worn by crewmembers. Additionally, SafeLinks can be retrofitted into a ship’s life rafts.

When activated, these devices transmit alerts and GPS signals to any receiver in a four-mile radius. Suppose a crewmember does fall overboard. The ship will have the AIS receiver up and running, which can pinpoint the location of their comrade in no time. Thanks to the 60-second update intervals, the location of the device will never be in doubt. Another type of personal AIS manufactured by Ocean Safety has a flashing LED light that helps with nighttime rescues. It also will transmit for 24 hours straight.

The use of personal AIS devices are part of the new safety regulations handed down by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The regulations passed in 2000 specify that all ships of 300 gross tonnages or more, must be equipped with an AIS system for ship-to-ship communication. That is also true of any cruise liner or cargo ship with 500 gross tonnages.

Beyond the professional shipping industry, personal AIS devices are also gaining in popularity with pleasure craft owners and charter fishermen. This has lead to a significant spike in the sales of these devices anywhere there is a marina nearby. Ocean Safety, the makers of the SafeLink, report that there are increased corporate orders for AIS SRS. Apparently, these units are replacing the EPIRB Personal Locator Beacons, whose sales have flat-lined.

To prove the merits of their device, Ocean Safety reps took 25 members of the Icelandic Fishing and Rescue Departments on a “rescue mission.” This involved a brave volunteer diving into the icy waters of Reykjavik Habour. He was wearing a survival suit and lifejacket equipped with the AIS. After the moment the lifejacket was deployed, the AIS began transmitting data within five seconds. The volunteer was plucked from the waters with pinpoint accuracy.

The emergency response fleet Svitzer UK has implemented the use of the SafeLink across all 100 of its vessels. With a weight of 120 g and measurements of 27 x 47 x 124mm, users hardly notice they are carrying the device until they need it the most.

Is Your Professional Appearance Keeping You From Mining?

Professional AppearanceIs Your Professional Appearance Keeping You From Mining?

As it stands, Victoria is the only city in Canada that has laws that prohibit discrimination based on appearance. As a result of these special laws, there have been over a hundred claims filed based on people being rejected for a job because of their weight. There have also been claims based on height, hairstyles and body modifications. Even a person’s body odor has been cause to file a discrimination claim.

Fair or not, these claims are difficult to prove, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the job. With regards to things like tattoos and piercing, it might be more of a perception issue than anything else. Could your tattoos be keeping you out of the mining workforce?

Surveys have found that the perception of people with tattoos is that they are somehow “rough around the edges.” Those discreetly placed tattoos that won’t even be revealed in a job interview aren’t the problem. However, it is hard to hide full sleeve, neck or face tattoos.

Body modifications like multiple piercings and ear gauges could also stop recruiters from hiring individuals. Of course, unless the recruiter specifically mentions your body art as the cause, you may never know for sure. Do you want to take that chance?

It may also come down to the type of tattoo that can be seen. Certain tattoos like tear drops and spider webs could often refer to someone with a criminal history. These are often the markings of gang related “trophies.” Tattoos that are overly offensive such as those with nudity or depictions of violence could also be a detriment to getting hired.

Having tattoos does not automatically keep you out of mine operation work. There are sure to be plenty of workers who enjoy getting tattoos. However, what if you decide that you want to advance from your current position? Would the management of your company be accepting of those tattoos?

This isn’t so much an issue for among coworkers; however, it could be when it comes to you dealing with potential clients and vendors. In other words, what might those people think about a person covered in ink and piercings? If there is a chance that they may have a negative connotation associated with your “art work,” then it will be hard for your upper management team to get over that.

What can you do if you have visible tattoos? If you are looking for advancement, then talk to your company’s human resource representative. Be blunt and ask them if your ink is going to hold you back from a promotion. If so, then you might want to think about getting those tattoos removed. What is more important? A tattoo or a good job?

The good news is that tattoo acceptance is gaining ground as more and more people are getting them. This acceptance is probably more widespread among the younger generation. Still, if you’re thinking about adding ink, then you need to be aware of the impact it could have on your future. The best advice is to find a way to keep your tattoos covered.

Fatigue Being Studied with ReadiBand

FatigueFatigue Being Studied with ReadiBand

Worker fatigue has long been a problem plaguing many, but especially those employed as mining operators. However, it might have less to do with working too long and more to do with not getting the right amount of rest. Even though doctors recommend that we get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, rarely does anyone sleep for that amount of time. In order to find out how miners are holding up, several major mining companies are teaming up with Fatigue Science and the ReadiBand sleep monitoring device.

The ReadiBand is a much more affordable and convenient way to collect sleep data. The other method required the test subject to sleep overnight in a lab, hooked up to electrodes that feed the data to recording devices. Sleeping in the comfort of your own bed, the ReadiBand is worn like a wristwatch and runs on rechargeable batteries. When activated, the ReadiBand utilizes a sophisticated program to determine the level of sleep quality. These findings are based on the wrist movements of the person wearing the device, a method of collecting data which is referred to as actigraphy; the same semiconductors used to transmit this data were created for work with the US Department of Defense.  The data collected through monitoring is then transmitted to a computer and analyzed by Fatigue Science.

The type of information that the ReadiBand collects includes the following:

  • Average amount of time slept each night;
  • The amount of time it takes to fall asleep;
  • The number of times a person wakes up during the night;
  • Fatigue risk analysis based on blood alcohol levels vs. fatigue levels.

Add it all together and the wearer of the ReadiBand has concrete information to discuss with their doctor. Together, adjustments can be made to ensure more effective sleep patterns. This is a proactive step towards combating the issue of work fatigue and could change the way everyone in the mining industry looks at sleep.

One of the first operations to bring Fatigue Science on board was the Rio Tinto mining company. Back in 2011, the Rio Tinto workers were asked to wear the ReadiBand over a two-week period. In just those first 14 days, data showed that the highest occurrence of fatigue-related accidents were happening at the conclusion of the first day shift and during the last night shift. Because of these findings, Rio Tinto introduced new safety guidelines that prevent workers from operating heavy machinery if they’ve been awake for 14 hours straight or more. Once those rules were put into place, those fatigue-related accidents faded. The workers also reported feeling better, which improved moral and helped with overall productivity.

Here in Canada, the ReadiBand is being used by Vancouver’s hockey team, the Canucks; and consumers are renting the ReadiBand from the pharmacy chain, London Drugs. For a nominal charge, the local pharmacist can upload all the collected data and obtain a detailed sleep report for the user.

Fatigue Science has been leading the charge to study sleep disorders. Their fatigue measurement technology is helping a large segment of the population get a better night’s rest. This will translate into less fatigue-related accidents and better health all around.

Combating Farm Noise Fatigue

noise fatigue

The Sight and Hearing Association of Minnesota has found that hearing loss can occur from chronic overexposure to loud noise. Noise fatigue is a workplace hazard for many occupations, including farming.

According to several university studies and research compiled by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 75% of all farmers experience some form of work-related noise fatigue and hearing loss. Although mining comes in at number one, farming would be towards the top of the list when it comes to occupations that have a high risk of causing hearing loss.

Here are some of the symptoms to be aware of with hearing loss:

  • Difficulty in understanding what someone is saying;
  • Reduced sound quality;
  • Hearing less overall;
  • Tinnitus, commonly described as ringing in the ear.

Hearing loss is often progressive. This means that farmers exposed to persistent, intense noise could feel the affected of damage later in life. For example, despite upgrading to noise reducing machinery such as cab tractors, hearing loss could still occur due to past exposure. Unfortunately, many farmers feel that the only loud noises they come in to contact with are from the tractors. This is not the case; throughout the day, a farmer is exposed to a variety of noises that could lead to damage.

How loud is too loud? A general rule of thumb is that if you have to raise your voice over the noise of a machine to talk to someone who is just a few feet away, then the machine noise could be at a damaging level. The accepted level of work related noise is 85 decibels; anything louder than this and protective gear should be used to prevent hearing damage.

How do farm noises rate? Consider these decibel levels:

  • Tractor = 74-112 decibels
  • Combine = 80-105 decibels
  • Chainsaw = 77-120 decibels
  • Riding Mower = 79-89 decibels
  • Pig Squeals = 85-115 decibels

Clearly, there isn’t a lot going on during the course of an average workday on the farm that wouldn’t require the need for noise protection. There are many types of protective gear available on the market including noise reduction headphones to ear buds; even small earplugs will provide some level of noise dampening. In order to follow through on using them when needed, the best choice is something you feel comfortable wearing.

Whatever type of safety gear you select, consider purchasing several pairs. By having multiple sets spread across your machinery, you are more likely to remember to use them. Whenever possible, try to go from a noisy environment to a quiet zone to give your ears a rest. The harsh reality is that the hearing loss from the persistent noises that come with the job, is irreversible. Not even hearing aids or surgery can make up for the loss; however, that doesn’t mean you cannot slow down the progression. It is vital that you wear protective hearing gear at all times, your hearing should not be taken for granted.

Facing the Winter on Oil Rigs

winter on oil rigsFacing the Winter on Oil Rigs

Good pay and solid benefits are the enticing attributes of working on an oil rig. To reap the financial rewards of working on a rig, workers face extreme challenges both physically and mentally. If the intense and grueling type of work was not enough, work conditions on oil rigs can be very dangerous, especially during the winter months.

A typical schedule would consist of 12 hour shifts for up to two weeks at a time and since oil rigs operate around the clock, this means long hours, day or night. As only the most extreme conditions would be cause for shut down of the rigs, workers are subject to harsh climates during their long, winter shifts.

Working in the Extreme Cold

Two weather related, medical conditions you need to be aware of when working in extremely cold temperatures are frostbite and hypothermia. Education on these conditions is very important as in extreme cases, they can be fatal.

With hypothermia, your temperature drops faster than your body can generate heat, resulting in a complete breakdown of your body’s systems. Not wearing the right type of protective clothing can contribute to hypothermia, however, if you are tired, already suffering from an ailment such as a cold or the flu, or haven’t eaten a well-balanced meal, you may also be susceptible.

The initials signs of hypothermia can include fatigue, muscle cramps, shivering and feelings of intense cold. As it persists, slurred speech, a slowed heart rate, lack of coordination and the inability to focus on tasks may also become indicators of worsening hypothermia. Recognizing these symptoms for yourself is hard enough, so workers in conditions where hypothermia is a potential risk need to be diligent about not only themselves, but also their coworkers. If you feel you see the beginning signs of hypothermia in yourself or others, seek medical attention right away.

The other condition workers are susceptible to in the cold weather is frostbite. Unlike hypothermia’s more internal affects, frostbite is identifiable from external markings. Frostbite attacks the outer layers of skin, with the first sign being a whitening of the flesh. After warming up, the skin may become red in color, like a sunburn and the affect area may be a source of swelling, itching, and pain. Here are some preventive measures to take against hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Wear layers. It’s not clothes that keep you warm, but the fact that they lock in the warmth of your body. The more layers between you and falling temperatures, the better.
  • Always cover your head and neck. These areas are where most of your body heat will escape.
  • Choose wool or synthetic fabrics. Clothing of these types of fabric are the best to keep you warm, while cotton which “breathes” should be avoided since you don’t want to release your body warmth.
  • Try to keep moving at all times.
  • Avoid directly touching any metal surface.

You’re body needs plenty of nutrients and fluids for fuel, so if you’re thinking about going on a diet, the time to start is not while working on an oil rig in the winter. Although fluid intake is important, this should not include alcohol. Alcohol tends to thin out the blood vessels which does not mix well with cold weather.

The Living Conditions

When working on an oil rig, there are three options for accommodations; commuting, staying at a camp, or living on an offshore rig.

If commuting to the jobsite from a nearby home, ensure you have a dependable mode of transportation. A truck that won’t start or tires that can’t handle the cold weather conditions won’t be tolerated. If you don’t show up, someone else will gladly work to earn the high pay.

Living at a jobsite camp and living on an off shore rig are very similar. You will be provided with a place to sleep, meals and basic amenities; don’t expect anything fancy or exciting, but do prepare for tight quarters. Make sure to pack or download plenty of reading materials or other activities to keep you occupied on your off hours as Wi-Fi should be available, but may not be dependable. However, with the long and tiring days, most down time will consist of sleep.

Due to the sheer weight of the necessary equipment, along with climate changes that ensure safe ground conditions, the window of opportunity for landlocked oil rigs, makes obtaining work at these sites a seasonal opportunity. That’s not to say you won’t find work during the off season but you’ll have to be diligent and flexible to keep up your employment.

How In Shape is Your Employee Health and Wellness Program?

employee health and wellnessEmployee Health and Wellness Program

Many employers provide healthcare benefit packages to their employees, helping to ensure their valuable workers are able to meet their health needs such as doctor’s visits, dental care, eye exams and prescriptions at a reasonable personal expense. Despite the advantages and opportunities that receiving benefits through work provides, this does not ensure that workers are making the best lifestyle choices when it comes to their personal health.

Even when receiving proper medical care, an individual’s health will be greatly impacted by their eating and exercise habits; and let’s face it, when it comes to food and fitness, we could all use a little extra motivation. At the end of the day, all companies depend upon the work of their employees; and if employees are to remain productive, they need to stay in good health. This is why it is vital for companies of all sizes to embrace an employee health and wellness program.

For example, British Petroleum (BP) employs up to 7,000 staff members who are “landlocked” in the central Texas office. Additionally, they employee roughly 3,000 workers on offshore oil rigs where physically demanding work is an everyday occurrence. Since 2006, BP has partnered with Healthways to develop a comprehensive wellness program for all of their employees, whether on land or sea. As part of their health and wellness plan for those working on the oil rigs, medical professionals are even flown in by helicopter to provide medical screenings right on the rigs.

Included in the BP Exploration program are the following items:

  • Regular cholesterol and BMI screenings;
  • A health risk assessment that each worker completes for themselves;
  • Online support and resources through a company website that offers diet, exercise and stress reduction tips;
  • Team based health challenges;
  • Rewards for healthy improvements.

Thanks to those health challenges, 60 members of the BP Atlantis platform recently joined the popular American weight loss program “The Biggest Loser.” While the contestants were sweating off the pounds on TV, the Atlantis crew was shedding their own extra weight while working in the Gulf of Mexico. The crew’s “biggest loser” reportedly dropped 40 pounds during the course of the groups health challenge.

An additional bonus for the Atlantis program was their reduction in food costs. In fact, orders for junk food dropped by as much as 50 percent.

BP is just one example of a company’s implementation of a successful health and wellness program. Many large corporations have created web portals dedicated to supporting their employees’ health and wellness. Along with virtual help, companies are also offering offline support in the form of health coaches and group meetings. Some companies are even adding fitness centers to their buildings, giving employees a convenient location to work out at before heading home for the day. With positive changes, workers will bring their new attitudes and healthy lifestyle outlooks home to their families, who will also reap the benefits of a company health initiative.

The only way for a health and wellness program to be effective is for the entire company to get involved. Your company may already have a program in place. If they do, are you putting it to good use?