Study finds lack of sleep reduces FIFO workers’ alertness

Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers recently tracked the sleep of 88 FIFO workers and found most were “barely scraping” the threshold for adequate rest on days off, let alone days on shift.

“As humans, we require about seven to nine hours of sleep per night,” adjunct associate professor Ian Dunican told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“People are getting approximately six hours of sleep working [12 hour] day shifts, five and a half after [12 hour] night shifts,” Dunican said.

According to the study, that lack of rest reduced workers’ alertness on mine sites by 20 per cent across a 14 day swing — and days off didn’t help.

“We thought that days off would be making up for the sleep debt incurred over the previous two weeks, but they’re only getting an average of about seven hours and 10 minutes — so just barely scraping into that green zone of adequate sleep,” Dunican said.

According to Dr Dunican, the mining industry was starting to take sleep seriously, but he said more work was needed to protect the sleep health of workers in WA’s number-one sector.

His said the ECU study was the largest of its kind in the world — but it still had a relatively small sample size.

“I’ve been working around mining for the last 20 years and I think it’s quite poor really that we haven’t done more in this space,” Dunican said.

A Chamber of Minerals and Energy spokesperson said workers’ health was a priority for the industry.

“Mining and resources sector companies provide a variety of roster options, allowing sufficient time for rest, recovery and recreation,” the spokesperson said.

“They additionally make rosters and working shifts as family and people-friendly as possible.”

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