Addiction a growing concern in oil and gas industry: Report

EAP access for alcoholism increased 481 per cent from 2006 to 2008

Alcohol addiction is a growing problem for the oil and gas industry, according to a new report.

The report by employee assistance program provider Shepell-fgi examined employees' EAP access at 36 upstream petroleum industry organizations and found a 481-per-cent increase in EAP access for alcohol abuse from 2006 to 2008.

According to Health and Wellness Trends in the Oil and Gas Sector:

• Employees in the oil and gas industry accessed their EAP at a rate 34 per cent higher than the Canadian norm in 2006, and 40 per cent higher in both 2007 and 2008.

• EAP utilization by the spouses of workers employed in the oil and gas industry was 33 per cent higher than the national norm in 2006, 56 per cent higher in 2007, and 75 per cent higher in 2008.

“Working in stressful jobs in remote locations, combined with distance or long periods of time away from family, is a prime cause for such problems as addiction,” said Rod Phillips, CEO of Shepell-fgi.

“Employees in the oil and gas industry, and their dependents, are primarily looking to the EAP for assistance with work-life issues, including family support services and substance abuse intervention.”

Employees in the industry also accessed EAPs for elder care and child care at a higher rate than the national norm (120 per cent higher and 43 per cent higher, respectively).

They were also more likely to access their EAPs for addiction counselling (35 per cent higher), nutritional counselling (21 per cent higher) and family counselling (18 per cent higher).

“As the industry continues to develop in remote sites, it will be necessary to address the social infrastructure, services and resources for retraining the existing workforce and attracting new hires to the industry,” said Karen Seward, senior vice-president of business development and marketing at Shepell-fgi.

To support employees, Seward has the following recommendations:

• Reinforce the value of EAP as a consultative tool for supervisors to use in addressing performance and behaviour issues.

• Promote a healthy workplace culture.

• Offer supervisors training and education to help them recognize signs of substance abuse.

• Provide supervisors with management training to help them build a culture of open exchange.

• Recognize that addiction is a health issue that can have long-term implications.

• Make use of workplace support programs offered through the EAP to provide more specialized interventions.

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