Bullying, burnout in line for change among FIFO workers

Rates of psychological distress, workplace bullying and burnout are significantly higher among fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers than their non-FIFO counterparts, one of Australia’s most comprehensive FIFO research studies has shown.

The McGowan Government-funded research involved more than 3000 FIFO workers and their families, and the partnership of industry, unions and researchers from Curtin University.

WA Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said the study was initiated by a number of deaths by suicide by FIFO workers.

Thirty-three per cent, or almost double the number of FIFO workers experienced high levels of psychological distress compared to only 17 per cent of non-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 WA Government is urging the mining and construction industry, unions and individuals to implement the 18 recommendations made in the report. They include rosters and shift patterns that provide better rest time, permanent rooms at accommodation sites and building local community connections.

The recommendations were made to further improve the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers, despite many FIFO workers already using a wide range of positive strategies.

Workers were reported to have maintained regular communication with family and friends while on-site, and seeking mental health support when needed.

“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 research outcomes will influence the draft code of practice being developed by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) for mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO workers in the resources and construction sectors in Western Australia.