PERTH (miningweekly.com) – New research by Curtin University has shown that one-third, or 33%, of Western Australia’s fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce was affected by high levels of psychological distress compared to only 17% of non-FIFO workers.
Along with higher levels of psychological distress, the research found FIFO workers also suffer more incidents of workplace bullying and higher levels of burnout than non-FIFO workers.
"This research was undertaken in response to calls from family members and recommendations from the Education and Health Standing Committee inquiry into FIFO work arrangements. The inquiry was initiated due to reports of a number of deaths by suicide by FIFO workers,” said Mental Health Minister Roger Cook.
More than 3 000 FIFO workers and their families participated in the research, which was also driven in partnership with industry and unions.
The report found many FIFO workers already use a wide range of positive strategies to manage their mental health including maintaining regular communication with family and friends while on-site, and seeking mental health support when needed.
The report made 18 recommendations to better the mental health of FIFO workers, including rosters and shift patterns that provide better rest time, permanent rooms at accommodation sites and building local community connections.
"We hope the industry, unions and FIFO workers themselves will adopt the report recommendations, on site, and at home, to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of all FIFO workers, and their families,” Cook said on Wednesday.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) has welcomed the release of the report, saying it would be an important step in ensuring the efforts of the Western Australian resources companies in continuously improving the healthy and safety of their workforce were effective and meaningful.
“Mental health issues exist throughout the entire community. As a major employer in the state, the Western Australian resources sector is committed to ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of its workforce as part of its ongoing commitment to health and safety,” CME CEO Paul Everingham said.
“The research sheds further light on the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers and CME will work closely with our members to review, consider and respond to the recommendations in this report.”
Everingham noted that when it came to looking after the safety and health of employees in the workplace, there would always be room to improve.
“This research will greatly assist companies in reviewing existing strategies to ensure they are directed in the most appropriate areas and are achieving meaningful results,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety is also currently drafting a code of practice for mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO workers in the resources and construction sectors in Western Australia. It is anticipated the code will reflect the outcomes of the research.