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Parliamentary Inquiry told self-harm no more prevalent in mining than other industries

The AMMA has told a West Australian parliamentary inquiry that mental illness and self-harm is no more prevalent in the mining workforce than other industries.

In its submission to the Western Australia Legislative Assembly – Education and Health Standing Committee – Inquiry into mental health impacts of FIFO work arrangements, the AMMA said objective data showed there was no spike in mental health issues in the resources sector.

However, chief executive Steve Knott said an awareness of mental health as an ongoing risk that must be carefully managed.

“One suicide in the resource sector or broader community is one too many,” Mr Knott says.

“Resource employers have implemented a number of initiatives to combat any risks associated with FIFO work practices. They are committed to promoting awareness and embedding fit-for-purpose, risk-based policies and procedures to protect the safety of their workforces.

“While we note from the experiences of employers and employees that there is no causal link between FIFO work practices and mental illness or self-harm, this is an area where we need to remain forever vigilant and continue to improve awareness and communication.”

AMMA’s submission noted that a range of publicly available data suggests there is no evidence that mental health issues are more pronounced in the resource industry compared to other industries. The submission pointed to a recent Safe Work Australia report which attributed 0.6% of all mental stress claims in the Australian workforce to the mining industry.

Notwithstanding this, Mr Knott says there is a range of unique factors to FIFO work that must be acknowledged and managed by employers as part of their ‘whole-of-business’ mental health and workplace safety policies and initiatives.

“Proper mitigation strategies need to be considered to ensure risks to workers are reduced to the greatest extent possible. Other risks such as fatigue and drug and alcohol use are those which employers continuously monitor and address,” Mr Knott says.

“A common theme of feedback is that FIFO work is not for everyone, and resource employers go to great lengths in the recruitment stage to ensure people’s suitability to enter this lifestyle.”

AMMA’s submission also reiterates that FIFO work practices are essential for numerous projects in the Australian resource industry that may otherwise be commercially unviable.

“With such working arrangements often suiting both employers and employees, there is a need for sensible and informed policy making in this area.”

Click here to read AMMA’s submission to the WA inquiry into the mental health impacts of FIFO work.

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  • I agree that it takes specific attributes to handle FIFO and I have regularly spoken with people who have lasted 3 to 6 months at FIFO and gone back to 5 & 2 at home. I disagree that there is no more risk for workers contracting mental health issues in FIFO than elsewhere, as the high attrition rate and temporary nature of a lot of FIFO workplaces, I believe, would mask those peaks in statistics. We are far more aware of safety, aware of the pressures of this lifestyle and we look out for each other, because we spend so much more time with our work mates in a social setting than in normal society. We are strong because we need to be, but we are no less vulnerable to mental issues, just more aware and willing to do more.

AMSJ Winter 2021 MREC