FIFO lifestyle points to poor health

Fly-in fly-out workers have high levels of lifestyle-related health risks such as drinking, smoking and being overweight, a study by the WA Department of Health has found.

When compared with 913 shift workers and 10,613 people otherwise employed in WA, 380 FIFOs identified in the study using data from the WA Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System exhibited more health problems than others.

The workers who spend one to six weeks living and working on site, an average of more than 11 hours a day, were found to drink more alcohol (around four drinks a day) more often (three days a week) and were more likely to be current smokers, classified as overweight and obese.

They were also less likely to report mental health issues and more likely to report having an injury.

Their working patterns have been shown to disrupt sleep, lead to depression, poor mental health, increase the risk of peptic ulcers, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, researchers note in the Internal Medicine Journal (online July 25).

As billions of dollars is invested in new mining projects and a government inquiry looks into the increasing use of FIFO workers, further research should focus on specific aspects of their work to inform the development of policies to improve FIFO workers physical and mental health, the authors note.

“Our findings suggest that health interventions, whether in the workplace or clinical settings, need to be informed by the demographic mix of the cohort of workers on entry as they are not a homogeonous group, and targeted towards specific employment patterns to improve their current and future wellbeing,” they say.

Image: Six Minutes

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