Psychological distress, bullying headline FIFO concerns

In one of the most comprehensive fly-in fly-out (FIFO) research studies undertaken in Australia, rates of psychological distress, workplace bullying and burnout were found significantly higher among FIFO workers than their non-FIFO counterparts.

Over 3000 FIFO workers and their families participated in the research funded by the McGowan Government, in collaboration with industry, unions and researchers from Curtin University.

The research report found that twice as much, or 33 per cent, of FIFO workers experienced high levels of psychological distress compared with only 17 per cent of non-FIFO workers.

WA Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said that the study was prompted by a number of deaths by suicide among 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,” Cook said.

“The McGowan Government listened to families and the wider community, and agreed that more needed to be done, which is why we commissioned this research.”

The report found that many FIFO workers have used a wide range of positive strategies to manage their mental health. These include regular communication with family and friends while on-site, and seeking mental health support when needed.

The report made 18 further recommendations including rosters and shift patterns that provide better rest time, permanent rooms at accommodation sites and building local community connections.

The McGowan Government is urging the mining and construction industry, unions and individuals to implement the recommendations.

“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.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, in alignment with these research outcomes, is drafting a code of practice for mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO code workers in the resources and construction sectors in Western Australia.