You’ve had your chips: North Sea workers told to slim down

26/09/2023

OIL and gas workers are being restricted to having chips only once a week and offered daily exercise classes as increased weight gain has caused concerns over their safety offshore.

The Times has reported today that the average weight of a rig worker has increased from 75kg (11st 8lb) in 1975 to 99kg (15st 6lb) in 2023, according to data from TAC Occupational Health, a healthcare provider.

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Lifeboats, helicopters, stretchers and medical equipment is having to be adjusted to accommodate heavier workers and ensure continued safety offshore.

Dr Stuart Scott, chief medical officer at TAC Occupation Health, said: “This kind of weight gain is not limited to offshore workers but in this case there are specific implications about safety.

“If you have a lifeboat rated for taking 50 people of an average weight of 100 kilos and all of the sudden you have an average weight that’s greater, then there are safety implications with those lifeboats.

“We need to make sure that the lifeboats are secure and can accommodate even the biggest people on the platform.”

The proportion of offshore workers who are overweight has increased from 26% in 2015 to 33% this year, with significant growth in neck, chest, hip, waist and wrist sizes.

However, Dr Scott emphasised that this trend is not specific to the offshore population but rather mirrored a broader trend in Scotland, where 30% of the population was classed as obese in 2021.

The industry, unions and healthcare professionals have been working to improve the safety and medical equipment and held a workshop meeting organised by Offshore Energies UK last week to address the issue.

Medical evacuation teams are already increasing the weight of dummies used for training scenarios to more accurately reflect emergency situations and helicopters, lifeboats and stretchers are being adapted to carry a heavier load.

There has also been an effort to change meal options provided to staff offshore, including limiting serving chips to once a week and offering daily exercise classes and health assessments.

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