AMSJ » FIFO rosters taking toll on miners

FIFO rosters taking toll on miners

FIFO mental health
Mental health and personal crisis idea as a tree shaped as a face losing leaves as an anxiety and human stress symbol with 3D illustration elements.

New FIFO rosters are reportedly taking their toll on Western Australian miners according to researchers from Curtin University.

As the mining industry moved to roster changes in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, researchers found an increased risk of suicide among miners.

Professor Sharon Parker from Curtin University’s Centre for Transformative Work Design last week told The Australian that a small sample of 275 workers revealed a number of concerns regarding mental health of FIFO workers compared to previous periods.

Professor Parker and a team of researchers at Curtin previously completed an extensive study on the mental health impacts of FIFO work in Western Australia. The Impact of FIFO work arrangements on the Mental health & Well Being of FIFO workers report was delivered in September 2018 highlighting that one third of FIFO workers reported experiencing “high” or “very high” psychological distress (as opposed to “low” and “moderate” levels of psychological distress).

The report, which serves as a benchmark in the mining industry for impacts of FIFO workers, raised a range of significant concerns including issues surrounding suicide risks and burnout. In contrast to the 2018 study, Professor Parker and co-researchers Jess Gilbert, of Curtin University, and Laura Fruhen, of the University of Western Australia, found that mental health was ‘worsening’.

FIFO Mental health

“Our preliminary analyses for the FIFO workers during COVID-19 suggest that many more workers are at risk than was even the case shown in our previous research, which is worrying. We urge companies, unions, family and friends to do all they can to support FIFO workers who are away on site at this time.”

Professor Parker told The Australian that many companies “tried hard to support staff but more was needed because FIFO was here to stay.”

“We are trying to move away from this debate of should there be FIFO or not,” she said.

“There needs to be FIFO, so the question is, do we have to just accept that a third of all workers will face mental health challenges or are there things we can do about it? The evidence is very clear that if you create more positive cultures, decent rosters, more social support, people’s mental health is better.”

“Pre-COVID … we spent a lot of time debating with the chamber of commerce about having better rosters, such as one week on, one week off,” she said. “We got a lot of push back from industry because … there is a cost implication for that roster.”

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