With FIFO culture comes a range of health issues. FIFO workers work long shifts and experience isolation as they work away from their families and friends. They experience disruption to their sleep, have a lower standard of living. They are also subject to strict rules, both on the job and off it. One of the biggest health issues that has come from the FIFO life is mental health issues.
Many FIFO workers rely on alcohol, drugs, and stimulant drinks to cope with their circumstances. They do not possess the necessary coping mechanisms to handle their experiences. FIFO workers often smoke more, weigh more, and drink more. Those issues come with their own set of unique health problems. This was the result of an inquiry led by the government of Western Australia in response to nine WA miners taking their lives within the span of a year. While FIFO workers don’t have a higher rate of mental illness compared to the general public, there is a stigma within the community regarding mental health. This means that many FIFO workers will avoid seeking help. Families are generally a FIFA worker’s main support and when they are separated from them for long periods of time, they lose that support. This is particularly difficult for workers with children and partners. This leads to an increase in stress, which makes life more difficult than necessary.
In response to this, many mining companies offer an induction to help incoming FIFO workers understand what their life will be like. It means missing major milestones, anniversaries, family gatherings, holidays, and birthdays. Learning how to cope with that in a healthy way is crucial to the process. Not all sites have internet or reception, so this can be challenging. For those with the internet, it’s possible to video chat regularly to stay connected. Otherwise, phone calls will have to suffice. It’s also important for FIFO workers to build a strong network within their FIFO community whom they can rely on for socialising and support.