Nearly 200 representatives of leading organisations in the energy industry have joined together to develop a charter aimed at improving the mental health of North Sea workers.
The sector-wide agreement, which is being driven by the North Sea Chapter of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), is being developed in recognition that more must be done after research found 40% of onshore and offshore workers experienced suicidal thoughts some or all of the time while on duty.
The development of the charter is being led by a dedicated team who have determined the key areas of focus for the industry, with the document poised to undergo a wider consultation with stakeholders – including psychologists – before being issued in the coming weeks.
Delegates at the conference supported the call for a charter to help create the cultural and process changes required to improve mental health support for onshore and offshore workers.
Darren Sutherland, Chair of the IADC North Sea Chapter, believes the commitment shown by industry leaders since last month’s meeting demonstrates the desire for meaningful and lasting change. And as organisations across the country acknowledge Mental Health Awareness Week, he said he hopes companies will mark the occasion by pledging to sign the charter.
“The response to the event last month has been phenomenal, and to have so many stakeholders determined to play a part in improving the mental health support available to energy workers, both offshore and onshore, is heartening,” he said.
“Despite past efforts, the needle on mental health improvement does not seem to be moving in the right direction, let alone at pace. Tools have been created to better support mental health previously, but these have largely been activated through sign posting tactics and have failed to address the necessary cultural change required.
“The current generation of oil and gas workers will be remembered for being at the head of the energy transition – but that transition must include improving how we care for each other. And it must start today.”
The charter includes contributions from operators, contractors, psychologists and third sector organisations. It provides a framework to improve the mental health and safety of workers across the industry, detailing explicit actions, processes and improvements for all charter signatories to follow.
Darren added: “The work we are doing is about coming together as human beings to allow us to do business better by creating improved working environments for our people, not at the expense of them.
“This is not a box-ticking exercise. I would encourage as many organisations as possible to not only sign up to the charter, but to embrace it. We have the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of those we work and live beside, and it is an opportunity we cannot let pass by.
“It is particularly apt that during this Mental Health Awareness Week we are developing a fully collaborative approach that will empower people at every level in an organisation to get the help they need. Hopefully by the time the occasion is marked next year, we will have the majority of North Sea companies, not only signed up to the charter, but abiding by its objectives.”
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. Key issues raised at the event included the best ways to achieve the necessary culture change, the effective measuring of improvements in mental health support and ways to share best practice.
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