Updated: Feb 17
Working offshore can be tough for anyone, spending weeks away from home on an installation, isolated from family and friends and many of the comforts of modern living. If you are in the minority or feel marginalised it can be even more challenging. I have worked at onshore construction sites, and I've worked offshore, for ad hoc visits and on a rotational basis. My experience has been mixed. Whilst most individuals that I have met and worked with have been lovely, I often felt that I did not belong. When I reflect back it’s not hard to understand why: my too-big-for-me coveralls, shoes and hard hat; combining my pill packet so I don't need to think about or deal with my period in substandard facilities; hanging outside the male changing room hoping someone comes by so I can ask them to bring me my clean overalls (because all clean overalls were hung up in the [male] changing room); finding sexually explicit graffiti about myself...it's not difficult to see why I, and those in the minority, can be made to feel "other", like we don’t belong there. We are intruders.
When you’re in the middle, living this experience, it can feel excruciatingly isolating.
It is also very difficult not to compare and downplay your lived experience; "well, at least it’s better than it was 20 years ago"…
But I challenge that thought process - why should we suck it up and accept these circumstances? Why should each generation go through the pain? Can't we stop now, embed the learnings, accelerate the cultural shift, and drive change today? Why does it always have to be "organic", why can't it be catalysed, deliberate, strategic? We did it with safety culture... Caroline and I wanted to collate a collection of good practices that people and organisations have learned and implemented in their business. Sharing this knowledge to create a catalyst. In partnership with Step Change in Safety and collaborating with AFBE-UK we formed a team of diverse representatives who all worked offshore or regularly visited that environment.
We had an idea of the areas of concern from anecdotal evidence but wanted to test this across the broader offshore workforce so created a survey to gain a wider range of experience to help us drive our project. The result of our survey covered many different topics, but here are a few of the highlights:
29% of all respondents said they did not feel comfortable being their true self in their working environment.
59% of all respondents have felt uncomfortable by locker room chat or banter.
44% of all respondents stated that they do not think the offshore environment is one that promotes respect and inclusion despite this often being a core value on many offshore assets.
Only 31% of all respondents said there was adequate support and awareness around mental well-being whilst working offshore.
Helicopter Survival Suits
68% of female respondents have difficulties finding a survival suit that fits appropriately, with 8% being bumped from a flight due to an ill-fitting suit.
The responses from women on PPE were particularly striking:
62% said their coveralls didn’t fit effectively
51% said their outerwear/jacket wasn’t suitably sized
19% said their safety shoes didn’t fit effectively
43% said their gloves weren’t suitably sized
70% of respondents said sanitary bins were not widely available on their asset.
68% of respondents said the bond did not cater for all requirements.
23% of all respondents received or experienced negative comments due to sole room occupancy.
It is clear that for women working offshore PPE, helicopter survival suits and inclusive facilities remain key areas of concern.
For all respondents of the survey, no matter what their demographic, the responses indicated that a large proportion of the workforce do not feel the offshore environment is fully inclusive. They have felt uncomfortable in certain situations and feel that the core value of respect is not upheld.
As a result of the survey findings, we gathered, wrote, and published case studies and thought leadership pieces. We are grateful towards all the individuals and companies who shared their good practice and developments; without them, this project would not exist. We hope that you and the organisations you work with will find the case studies of benefit. You can read all of them on our website – click on this link.
Our project may be ending, but this is far from over.
Our ask is for you to keep sharing your stories and learnings with us and to flag up concerns within your organisations. Sharing knowledge, both light bulb moments and micro-gains, we can make the offshore experience more positive and enjoyable for everyone today, and for every generation after.