A day on an oil rig

Exercise Physiologist's life offshore

14/03/2013

Some people take their cars to work, some take the bus and others use their pushbikes. But for us, our mode of transportation is a helicopter. Never in our lives did we think our commute to work would involve a helicopter, unless of course you’re James Bond or a high-flying celebrity. Life offshore is unique, and definitely not for everyone. Rigs are often male dominated, with men making up almost 95% of the 70-200 people on board. There area a few women working for offshore catering companies, however occasionally there is a small number of engineers, medical staff and safety officers of the female persuasion. The living environment is similar to a small mine site, where staff live together in close proximity, only a rig is a floating platform in the middle of the ocean, often far away from land. Despite its confinements, you get to experience some amazing marine life, such as schools of fish being chased by dolphins or whales splashing in the distance, slithering sea snakes, and of course, the ocean’s most dangerous predator – sharks.

Some rigs have dated facilities, which often means you’ll be sharing a room with other occupants. Rooms can vary from 4 to 2 people per room, or if you’re lucky, you can get your own suite (which is often allocated to upper management). Nowadays, some of the newer rigs feel like a 5 star floating hotel. The accommodation and food facilities are of an extremely high standard. Each rig has a ‘galley’ where you eat your meals, with food being served every 3 hours. The galley is open 24/7 to accommodate staff working various shift patterns, and food can be catered to whatever your requirements. Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, celiac, or have allergies, the catering staff can meet even the strictest diets. However for some people, the galley can be a dangerous place as it's like a 24/7 buffet and people tend to stack on a few kilograms if they don’t watch what they eat, especially if there is a French pastry chef on board. However as health professionals, this is what keeps us busy on the rig. Gym facilities are present on most of the rigs, with some boasting flashy equipment, and others provide0 a limited range of fitness equipment. Regardless of the facilities, there is always an opportunity to keep fit while on board the rig. The most common working shift is from 6am-6pm and 12am-12pm, so you don’t have a huge rush of people using the gym at one time. There are also recreation rooms that are filled with Ping-Pong tables, darts and TV’s that regularly screen movies.

When we deliver the Health Lifestyle Program offshore, it always features a variety of programs throughout the day. Each trip has a different focus, with some programs working on general health and wellbeing and others designed to prevent workplace injuries. We usually have an early start, where we attend 2-3 pre-starts (toolbox meetings) to do a promotional spiel on a range of health topics including men’s health, diabetes and heart health. Following that, we run the Warm Up 4 Work program, which includes a range of pre-work stretching and warm-up exercises to help workers loosen up their muscles before commencing work.

Running fitness workshops is one of the most enjoyable parts of our day. We usually run 2-3 classes per day, which includes – boxing, circuits, yogalates, stretch, and cross fit classes. These classes are extremely popular with staff, as they get to try something different each time we visit. Each day there are work breaks at 9am and 3pm, which are often referred to as ‘smoko’. We use this time constructively to help promote health information, or run a monthly health screening of blood pressure and lung function, which often brings out the competitive side of guys on the rig. Between 10am-2pm we usually have individuals come in for a health/fitness consultation, baseline health screen, nutritional analysis, health check and/or back massage. Often, we visit the rig for Job Task Assessment or Manual Handling Observations to assist guys with reducing the risk of injuries associated with their job tasks.

There is always a break in the afternoon to chill out or take a nap before dinner, which commences at 5pm. In the evening, we do an additional class and/or some other health consultations. Following these, it’s off to bed after an extremely busy day, with the alarm set for 4.30am so that we can get up and do it all over again!