A high proportion of Arrow Energy’s staff work in remote locations, some distance and time away from sophisticated medical facilities and rapid emergency response. Arrow required all staff to do a pre-employment Fitness To Work medical, but historically there was no follow-up program of regular review.
Furthermore, Arrow’s major ‘boots on ground’ exposure for a serious medical event came from contractors, owing to respective numbers of staff vs contractors working in the field. Different Arrow contractors had different Fitness To Work regimes and there was no provision for accepting other companies’ Fitness To Work medicals. This was inefficient and provided uneven protection across the Arrow workforce.
Every year in the oil and gas industry there are multiple occurrences of individuals needing medical evacuation (medivac) from, or even dying at remote locations due to Fitness To Work (FTW) related causes (e.g. cardiac arrest). As such, medical FTW is an integral element in ensuring the safety of personnel in the industry.
Arrow determined that the level of health screening for staff and contractors was not fit for purpose and there was a high potential for serious medical conditions to be present in the workforce without being identified and managed appropriately.
Arrow had already in place a medical services contract capable of undertaking periodic medicals. The company decided to implement a program of mandatory two-yearly Fitness To Work medicals using its existing service provider.
Arrow also had a sponsorship arrangement with Heart of Australia, and leveraged off this as the first element in the rollout of the Fitness To Work medical program. This was deemed appropriate as the major non-work related medical risk to Arrow at the time was determined to be cardiovascular. A Heart of Australia cardiology screen was rolled out as mandatory for all Arrow field staff and nominated Head Office staff who spent time in the field. This was followed the next year by the rollout of the general Fitness To Work medical requirements which required a mandatory two-yearly periodic medical, across the same cohort.
In addition, Arrow began discussions with other proponents and contracting companies in relation to developing a common, standardised approach for managing medical Fitness To Work. This evolved into the Safer Together Health Working Group that is now seeking to roll out the Safer Together FTW Medical Assessment Guideline. The objective of the Guideline is to reduce the occurrence of Fitness To Work health-related severe and fatal events in our industry.
Arrow now has embedded a requirement for a risk based two yearly Fitness To Work medical for staff, to build on the pre-employment medicals. The process has now gone through two major cycles, and mirrors the approach set out in the Safer Together FTW Medical Assessment Guideline.
Although it is very difficult to prove cause and effect with Fitness To Work medicals and actual medical events, Arrow has seen a decrease in serious medical events in staff and contractors since the rollout of the Fitness To Work medical program. The company attributes this to:
- Better surveillance of underlying medical conditions in Arrow staff
- Increased profile of medical Fitness To Work across the whole workforce.
This acknowledges that no medical Fitness To Work program is guaranteed to eliminate the risk of a serious medical event in the workforce.
However, one undeniable outcome has been a much greater awareness and understanding among staff and contractors regarding medical fitness and a greater rapport between Arrow nurses in the field and the workforce.
The concept of introducing a common, standardised approach across the industry for managing Fitness To Work medical assessments has been well received by the workforce:
“I think a standard Fitness to Work medical would be very advantageous to the industry. It would give everyone the same level playing field when it comes to their medicals so that when they jump from job to job, or move from site to site, they can just utilise the same medical that they’ve already received rather than go through another medical.” (Contractor - Warehouse Foreman)
“I think it’s a great idea. If we could have a standard FTW medical that everyone works to, it would make the onboarding process a lot quicker.” (Contractor – Site Supervisor)
Communication Is Key – Take the time to clearly explain to your workforce the purpose of the program; the confidentiality issues surrounding it and how they will be managed; what the medical information will be used for; and the existence of follow-up processes to help them address any medical issues identified.
Health And HR Working In Harmony – Close co-operation between the Health and Human Resources functions is essential so that an aligned approach and common understanding of process and outcome management is in place across the business.
Plan For Post-Assessment – Be prepared for the “what if” and have robust follow-up processes in place to manage medical monitoring and, if necessary, Return to Work or other outcomes.
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For more information about Arrow Energy click here.
For more information about the Safer Together FTW Medical Assessment Guideline click here.