mental health

WA and QLD Governments review FIFO work arrangements and mental health

A 2015 West Australian parliamentary enquiry into suicide and mental health among fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers found they often come from a high risk demographic – males aged 18-44.

The report, published in June 2015 made 30 recommendations, including improved training to address and manage mental health among workers and greater acknowledgement by resource companies and industry bodies about the correlation between FIFO work practices and mental health issues.

It also called for the development of a specific code of practice to address FIFO workers’ wellbeing; however this was rejected by the West Australian Government when responding to the inquiry in October 2015. It will instead work on strengthening existing codes.

The government response to the inquiry supported 14 of the 30 recommendations, partially supported one and noted 15.

Supported recommendations include improved training and workplace culture development, reporting on suicides or suicide attempts, tracking the number of FIFO workers in Western Australia and developing a database to monitor suicide trends in the state.

Also supported was the provision of “high quality, reliable and accessible communications technology in FIFO accommodation villages”, increased worker and industry community engagement and an inquiry into industry alcohol consumption habits and its relation to mental health.

Non-supported or ‘noted’ recommendations include the minimisation or abolition of “motelling accommodation practices”, the implementation of less arduous rosters or requiring the mining industry to acknowledge “their workforce is vulnerable to suicide”.

The development of a specific training program for supervisors to manage and address mental health issues and suicide prevention was also not supported.

Suicide prevention organisation, Lifeline WA acknowledged the focus by industry to identify and improve FIFO worker mental health but strongly supported the Code of Practice.

A Lifeline WA spokesperson said there should be a focus on “rosters, fatigue, workplace culture, bullying, communication and accommodation facilities, self-efficacy and an acknowledgment of the impact on personal relationships”.

The spokesperson for the group, who published their own report on mental health in mining in 2013 added: “there are three barriers that limit FIFO workers from seeking help: lack of knowledge of what supports are available; lack of access to supports; and stigma – the fear of being perceived ‘weak’ or incapable of performing on the job,”.

Stigma proves to be the largest of these three barriers, the spokesperson said.

Queensland Review. The end of 100 per cent FIFO?

Furthermore, in May 2015, the Queensland Government appointed a panel of four resource community and industry leaders to examine the use of 100 per cent FIFO workers. Their separate report included analysing the economic impact of FIFO work practices in regional resource communities and the communities where the FIFO workers live.

The report was completed July 2015 and publicly released 1 October 2015 and makes eight recommendations, including calling for increased sourcing of workers from local communities, and support of those communities.


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