One-third of FIFO workers in the resource sector experience high levels of psychological distress, a number double the rate of the general population, according to a new study.
The Curtin University study into the mental health of FIFO workers was funded by the State Government and makes 18 recommendations to help workers suffering from mental health issues, prevent further harm, and promote better wellbeing.
Gathering information from 3,000 FIFO workers, 400 partners and 300 former FIFO workers, the study represents one of the most comprehensive FIFO research studies undertaken in Australia.
33 percent of FIFO workers experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (compared to 17 percent among non-FIFO workers). FIFO workers also reported higher levels of burnout and suffered more bullying.
The report‘s recommendations include changing shifts and roster patterns to provide better down time, building on community connections, providing workers with permanent rooms whilst on site, and providing reliable communications for workers to talk to loved ones back home.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the State Government had listened to families and the wider community, and warned if the sector did not improve its’ practices, then legislation was a possibility.
“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.”
“If in the community’s mind they aren’t taking the necessary actions to create safe workplaces, mentally safe workplaces for their workers, well then it will be the requirement for the Government to legislate.”
The Western Australian CFMEU construction and general division welcomed the report in a statement, and said it was “increasingly clear” that working conditions were having a significant negative impact on the mental health of FIFO workers.
“Industry standard rosters need to change to protect against physical and emotional exhaustion and realign with the most basic community standards.”
“FIFO workers need better accommodation that allows for actual rest and restoration instead of just being shoved in a box.”
“And we need to stop ‘hot bedding’ – where living quarters are farmed out and there’s no guarantee of having a consistent bed to sleep in. This, more than just about anything else, destroys the opportunity for workers to maintain a community, support each other, or feel like they have a proper place.”