Physical fitness and safety of offshore oil and gas workers

Apr 22nd, 2014

Michelle Osmond

Physical fitness and safety of offshore oil and gas workers

After the tragedy of Cougar Flight 491 in 2009, recommendation 14 of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry was developed. It proposed that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) set goals for physical fitness for workers in preparation for safety training, mainly as it relates to one’s ability to exit a ditched helicopter. As a result, a review was commissioned by the C-NLOPB that focused on the negative impact of obesity on the health and safety of offshore workers.

Currently there is no data available on the health and fitness of the province’s offshore workforce. That’s where Human Kinetics and Recreation researchers Drs. Kevin Power, Duane Button and Erin McGowan come in. Drs. Power and Button are certified exercise physiologists while Dr. McGowan is a behavioural medicine expert with research that focuses on behaviour changes promoting healthy lifestyles. 

In collaboration with industry partner Definitions, a local company that provides health and fitness resources for major oil and gas companies in North America, and armed with a grant from the Research Development Corporation, they’re measuring health and lifestyle behaviour, physical fitness levels as well as obesity rates of the province’s offshore workers. Participants for the study are being recruited from those already participating in Definitions’ health and wellness programs.

"Our province's economy is healthy and steadily growing largely because of the offshore oil and gas industry. Unlike our economy, however, the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is not the greatest, having the highest rate of obesity in Canada," notes Dr. Power. “The obesity rates, or the health and fitness of our offshore oil and gas industry workers is currently not known but an unhealthy workforce is more likely to sustain injuries, leading to a work environment with compromised safety." 

“Our research will not only lead to developing health and fitness programs, it may be beneficial in reducing chronic illness and time lost due to injury. All of this equates to a healthier, safer and more productive workforce," adds Dr. Power.

 Subjects will be take part in a physical assessment that includes measuring heart rate and blood pressure, anthropometrics and body composition, cardio respiratory function, flexibility and muscular strength, power and endurance, as well as a behavioural assessment with questionnaires about lifestyle, stress levels, etc.  

By the end of the project, which is expected to be July 2015, the researchers are hoping to develop a behaviour change program to encourage and promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviours for offshore employees.