Illustration; Source: North Sea Transition Authority

Ithaca, Aker Solutions, Expro, Proserv, and EY back 10-point plan to improve North Sea workers’ mental health

Five energy industry players – Aker Solutions, Expro, Ithaca, Proserv, and EY – have given their backing to a charter aimed at improving the mental health of thousands of North Sea workers, which is being led by the North Sea Chapter of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC).

Illustration; Source: North Sea Transition Authority

Rising mental health awareness is important in all lines of work, however, in jobs where workers are cut off from their families and loved ones for long stretches of time, such as what thousands of offshore workers experience in the North Sea, it seems even more paramount.

The North Sea drillers’ association expects that mental health will become an important topic, just like the physical health of workers, becoming part of employees’ regular appraisal meetings with managers. The development of the charter follows the publication of a report from the IADC – Changing Minds: Saving Lives – which urged a new approach to mental health in the North Sea.

Darren Sutherland, Chair of the IADC North Sea Chapter, commented: “We are proud to have been able to bring so many people together in a short space of time to get this charter launched. The groundswell of support for this initiative has been quite incredible and encouraging to see. Not only does it show how quickly we as an industry can rally when required, but it also shows how seriously the issue is being taken.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to implement a meaningful change and I am hopeful that in decades to come, those working in our industry will look back on the changes we are looking to implement and see a marked difference in how mental health is viewed.”

Aker Solutions, Expro, Ithaca, Proserv, and EY have now joined the likes of Borr Drilling, Dräger, Noble, Opito, the Port of Aberdeen, Step Change in Safety, Well-Safe Solutions, and Wood, in throwing support behind the initiative, which has been launched in an attempt to drive cultural change in how the energy sector approaches mental health.

“This charter is part of a mental health movement that we hope will save lives, and everyone who has contributed can be proud of that. However, it is easy for people to come together and put some words down on paper. We will be judged on how we put it into practice,” added Sutherland.

Furthermore, the 10-point action plan has been drafted in consultation with organisations from across the energy industry, as well as psychologists, and third sector partners including Mental Health Aberdeen and the Cyrenians. As the charter prepares to be officially launched, one of the leading voices behind the cause claims it is now up to the industry to ensure the points are put into practice.

Moreover, the text of the charter has been developed after almost 200 representatives from across the industry attended a summit in Aberdeen in April to discuss how they could create the cultural and procedural changes required to improve mental health support.

Sutherland elaborates: “The points in the charter are all about looking after each other, and ensuring we stay healthy. One of the key areas we have been keen to drive home is that we can only help one another if the problem is acknowledged.

“The energy industry is a close-knit one, and one where there are large networks and friendship groups across all levels. It is important that the people in these groups feel comfortable in not only talking about their mental health, but also feel enabled to seek help, or help others find assistance.”

What does this 10-point plan entail?

Following a consultation, the ten points developed for inclusion in the charter, state signatories will need to initiate a company and industry-wide cultural change; demonstrate transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting; build mental health and well-being awareness among employees; and foster effective people management.

In addition, those who join the charter will be required to encourage open conversations about mental health and well-being and provide employees with good working conditions, including a safe psychological space; provide comprehensive training; give mental health and well-being the same high priority as physical health; offer customised mental health support and guidance; routinely monitor mental health and well-being; and sharing best practices.

“Poor mental health can affect any of us when we least expect it. By adhering to the points created in the charter, I would hope we can help reduce the number of people requiring assistance and improve mental health in energy. Finalising the ten points in the charter is only the beginning of our journey to drive cultural change in the industry and we look forward to confirming further steps in the near future,” underscored Sutherland.

The North Sea drillers’ association actively keeps track of the oil and gas industry in the UK. In line with this, it wrote to parliamentarians across the UK in March 2023, urging them to ignore “the political point scoring,” which has led to premature calls for the abandonment of the UK’s oil and gas industry.

This came after its appeal in February 2023 for the Scottish and UK governments – and all areas of the oil and gas industry – to cooperate to better effect and ensure the sector takes a balanced, long-term approach to the energy transition.