Providing a healthy working environment for employees is fast becoming a number one concern for employers in the energy industry. Through education programs in fitness, nutrition and wellbeing, companies of all sizes can measure the benefits of improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved employee morale.
But how can these challenges be addressed in subsea environments where the typical work-life balance is replaced by prolonged periods in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber? Such is the reality for professional saturation divers who contend with a unique set of physiological and psychological stressors in their workplace.
With little research conducted in this field, there is still much to learn about the body’s response to these elements and the effect on personal and professional productivity.
A study has been launched by Robert Gordon University (RGU) in conjunction with Fitnut Ltd. to develop, monitor and evaluate tailored training and nutrition programs for saturation divers to improve their health and fitness.
The project has a budget of £127,000 after being awarded a research grant from the Scottish Government and the Technology Strategy Board as well as additional support from Fitnut.
This will fund a two-year evidence-based research project involving world leading companies in subsea engineering, diving industry experts, dieticians, physical activity experts, behavioral psychologists and occupational physiotherapists.
Dr. Eimear Dolan, lecturer of Sports and Exercise Science at Robert Gordon University’s School of Health Sciences and a member of RGU’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing Research (IHWR), will lead the extensive research program.
She said, “Aberdeen is recognized as the global center of excellence for subsea technology and we believe this research will develop a world class program which will capture the attention of the subsea diving community and enhance that reputation.”
Saturation diving is a physically demanding occupation, and as such, divers must maintain peak physical condition in order to perform to the best of their abilities.
The research will look at lifestyle choices during work periods and home-leave to ascertain and promote beneficial changes in both environments which will protect and prolong divers health and vitality.
A key challenge in the research will be the unique demands of this extreme working environment and the academic partners will need to adapt their scientific knowledge to meet the characteristics of this occupation.
Not only will the wellness program address physical activity in confined spaces, experimentation with foods will be undertaken to provide divers with high-nutrient meals that are not affected in terms of taste or smell when compressed before entering the pressurized chamber.
Penny McIntosh, Managing Director of Fitnut, said, “The aim of the partnership with RGU is to support the development of specifically designed and evidence-based training and nutritional programs for saturation divers.
“We believe there is an opportunity to study their lifestyles both on and offshore to improve health and wellbeing through education and engagement in a wellness program, thereby minimizing the health risks of the highly technical and complicated nature of their working environment.”