Submarines and other scrapWorking environment committee

The first women offshore

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Nurse Svanhild Rolfsen received permanent appointments on Frigg in August 1977 as probably the world's first woman employees offshore.
— The nurses Svanhild Rolfsen (left) and Marit Høiland pictured in front of the helicopter before making their first trip to the Frigg field. Photo: TotalFinaElf/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

This was the year when all installations in the North Sea with 24-hour occupation were required to have a registered nurse. Before, medical services on board had largely been provided by a person with a background in the health professions. Nursing is traditionally viewed as a woman’s profession, but most offshore nurses have been men. All the same, the first females to work offshore were nurses. Women eventually moved into other jobs – first as catering personnel, and then in every kind of offshore occupation.

Rolfsen says that she ended up on Frigg by chance. She had been tipped off that it was possible to become a nurse in Elf and called at the Dusavik offices. “Going out there felt like a long journey in 1977, since the area was not very built up,” she recalls. “I got the job as a nurse on Frigg, and was given some training before being sent out to the field. Few established routines existed in the early days, but we cooperated with doctor Tor Nome, who worked one day a week for Elf and could give advice from land. The doctors we’ve collaborated with have been good. In practice, we had to improvise. Routines and systems had to be developed.”

Unlike most other offshore installations, the quarters platform on Frigg had been designed to accommodate female workers. It featured two-berth cabins with en suite facilities. They say that, when the women came offshore, sweat bands were replaced by aftershave.

“A lot people were unused to having women offshore to begin with, but they eventually got accustomed to it,” Rolfsen says. “Many were undoubtedly pleased that the field became more like an ordinary community rather than a tough masculine society. Elf was good at facilitating things for women workers, and put the emphasis on expertise. Changing rooms were provided for both genders. When I arrived on the field, conditions were better than I’d expected. Even today, QP is regarded as a good platform to live on. Most of the women worked in the health section. The Elf system facilitated returning to work after periods of leave. If you became pregnant, you started maternity leave from the seventh month.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Svanhild Rolfsen by Trude Meland and Gunleiv Hadland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum, 15 June 2006.

Submarines and other scrapWorking environment committee
Published April 3, 2018   •   Updated June 29, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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