FIFO worker stress revealed
Change to rosters and accommodation arrangements is crucial to tackling the spate of psychological distress among fly-in, fly-out workers, a long-awaited report has revealed.
The State Government yesterday released the results of a study into the mental health impacts of FIFO work, which found 33 per cent of FIFO workers experienced high levels of psychological distress compared with only 17 per cent of non-FIFO workers.
It highlighted issues around isolation, sleep quality and high burnout rates among FIFO workers and made recommendations for changes to rosters, accommodation and recreation options.
The report identified FIFO workers on even-time and shorter rosters reported significantly better outcomes on all mental health and wellbeing measures compared with those on longer rosters with less time for recovery. Highcompression rosters and travelling long distances, which encroached on their limited time off, added to stress and fatigue levels.
Many FIFO workers felt worse when transitioning to site, experiencing sadness and anxiety and not wanting to return to work, and felt better when transitioning home.
Isolation was also a key factor and an important influence on FIFO worker mental health — not only because of separation from family, but because of long work hours preventing social interaction onsite.
“FIFO means you don’t create partnerships or you don’t create friends in that sort of environment,” one interviewee said. “So, it’s not only isolation from the partner that stays at home . . . it’s more isolated for the people that go up. They move you around the camp. You don’t get the same room twice . . . crammed quarters, long work hours, which means that by the end of that day, you don’t really make any friends.
“It’s just so isolating for the person individually as well as being in an isolated part of the world.”
The McGowan Government yesterday urged the mining and construction industry, unions and individuals to implement the recommendations, but stopped short of backing demands for change with legislation.
UnionsWA assistant secretary Owen Whittle said the research showed the resources sector was built on the poor mental health of FIFO workers and urgent action was required. “In the face of sui- cides and poor mental health, it is not enough for our resource corporation to offer band-aids after the fact — change must aim at prevention,” he said.
“One of the major, preventable factors contributing to poor mental health are the inhumane rosters that frequently have FIFO workers onsite for 28 consecutive days before having a break and those breaks include long hours of flying to and from remote sites.
“The standard for accommodation is often poor, including motelling that mean workers have to share different accommodation across shifts, in doing so denying them a place to live while working that they might build to make their own.”