By DARA BUTTERFIELD
Over the past 30 years, offshore workers have, on average, become bigger, broader and bulkier, according to new research by a Scottish university.
The £150,000 study found that male offshore oil and gas workers are now on average almost 19% heavier and 2% taller than they were in the mid-1980s.
Researchers at Robert Gordon University (RGU) have studied how the weight and height of offshore workers has changed since the mid 1980s – which has implications for health and safety, survival suit design and offshore work environments.
The project was led by Dr. Arthur Stewart at RGU’s Institute for Health and Wellbeing Research and Dr Graham Furnace, Medical Advisor, Oil & Gas UK. It was prompted by recognition that existing data was out of date, and that the workforce was heavier, but it was not known how that had impacted on their shape.
Dr Stewart said: “We now have a unique insight as to how the shape of offshore workers has altered profoundly since the 1980s. The scanning technology enables us to visualise the typical shape of a person of a given weight.
“Compared with that of a generation ago when many of the North Sea installations were constructed, the size of today’s workforce, together with the size increase imposed by different types of clothing, will enable space-related risk to be managed and future design for space provision optimised.
“In addition to the data on offshore workers, the study has generated an on-going capability for measuring the size and shape of the offshore workforce in the future.
“Despite challenging times for the oil and gas industry, this is good news for the offshore workforce and provides valuable information which will inform operational decisions and aspects of offshore installation and safety equipment design.”
Robert Paterson, Health Safety Director, Oil & Gas UK, said: “The new data will inform all aspects of offshore ergonomics and health and safety, from informing seat design for use in helicopters and lifeboats, survival suit design and space availability in corridors and work environments offshore.
“Our research partnership has also been very timely because it has also helped inform the work being done in response to Civil Aviation Authority concerns about passenger size and helicopter emergency push-out window size.”
A total of 588 male offshore workers were selected across seven weight categories to match the known weight profile of the workforce. Each underwent seven body scans using the latest portable 3D scanning technology.