Hibernia Management & Development Company: Psychological Safety 2015

Hibernia Management & Development Company is the gold winner of the Psychological Safety award as part of the 2015 Canada's Safest Employers awards

Working away from your family for weeks at a time can certainly have an impact when it comes to mental health. But Hibernia Management and Development Company (HMDC) is finding innovative ways to help its workers ease that stress.

HMDC operates the Hibernia platform, an offshore oil drilling operation off the coast of St. John’s, N.L. Five hundred employees work three weeks on, three weeks off, with 270 workers on the platform at any given time.

HMDC has pre-placement and periodic medical process risk assessments for psychological safety hazards, says Paul Dwyer, offshore installation manager. Licensed physicians conduct medical assessments and review the employee’s past and current psychological health history including hospitalizations, diagnoses or problems with working offshore.

If it’s discovered that an employee has a mental health issue, it gets addressed according to the individual circumstances, says Dwyer.

“Depending on the nature of the issue we may refer the individual to their personal physician, a specialist or to the employee assistance program for support,” he says. “On occasion an individual may have to be deemed temporarily unable to work offshore.”

Once on the platform, HMDC helps workers deal with the unique challenges that can come with working remotely, says Steve Tizzard, radio operator on the platform.

“It adds a potential element of stress to our lives that people who go home each night may not experience,” he says.

HMDC’s mental health initiatives provide tools to address any issue, says Tizzard.

The company provides training through Mental Health First Aid Canada’s train-the-trainer program.

“I train the other workers with a goal of having more people aware and ready to support colleagues who are experiencing mental health issues,” says Tizzard, who is a certified trainer.

HMDC also provides mental health awareness moments.

“They’re similar to a traditional safety moment presentation. But we use videos related to mental health awareness,” he says.

Topics for the mental health awareness moments have included tips on caring for your family from a distance, detecting and treating depression and anxiety and listening in a non-judgmental way.

HMDC also provides Ezra Chaplaincy Services on the platform, says Tizzard, which is a non-denominational ministry.

All these initiatives and resources have gone a long way toward breaking down stigma associated with mental health — offshore and onshore, says Dwyer.

“If someone hurts their back or arm, everyone would ask them about it. But if someone has a mental health issue, as a society, we are less likely to ask about it,” he says. “We need to change that.”