Mental health a big FIFO concern: inquiry

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 杭州夜生活
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Sweeping changes have been suggested to improve the resource sector’s handling of mental health issues in the fly-in fly-out workforce after an apparent spate of suicides.


A West Australian parliamentary committee has handed down its report into the mental health impacts of the practice, following an extensive inquiry that was prompted after nine FIFO worker suicides in the state over a 12-month period.

Committee chair Graham Jacobs said the nine suicides could not be confirmed as being directly linked to FIFO work because reporting to government agencies was an inconsistent “mishmash”.

But three large, recent and methodologically robust studies had found mental health problems among the FIFO workforce was about 30 per cent, significantly higher than the national average of 20 per cent.

“Several research reports were highlighted to the committee that provide robust factual and reliable data on the prevalence of mental illness amongst WA FIFO workers,” the report stated.

“The studies also emphasise the possibility of under-reporting of mental health problems amongst this sector of the workforce.

“The committee is inclined to give weight to this emerging evidence.”

Given the difficulties of determining a reliable figure for FIFO suicide rates, it was not helpful to conclude they were no higher than in the general community – as suggested by the mining company-funded Chamber of Minerals and Energy.

The chamber’s Bruce Campbell-Fraser insisted there was “still no evidence that FIFO employees have greater suicide rates than other people in the population”.

The chamber said FIFO remained a matter of choice for workers and urged the state government to “focus on quality research and data, rather than on anecdotal and emotive evidence”.

But Dr Jacobs said that was a cop-out.

“No doubt more research needs to be done but for the industry to say `well, we need to do more research’, that’s an excuse for doing nothing,” Dr Jacobs told 6PR.

The Association of Mining & Exploration Companies, which represents the junior end of the sector, said firms were “extremely cognisant” of the health and well-being of employees, trying to offer family friendly rosters.

Better rostering was the first of 42 findings in the report, with long periods of work without a break identified as being a big problem.

“Four weeks on or more and one week off are a disaster,” committee member Rob Johnson said.

WA Unions applauded the recommendations, particularly encouraging less-intensive work stints and developing a FIFO Code of Practice.

The WA opposition said the recommendations must be implemented as a matter of urgency.

“These recommendations are both reasonable and essential,” opposition mental health spokesman Stephen Dawson said.

Dr Jacobs said the recent suicide of a Roy Hill mine worker highlighted how important the inquiry had been.

A Roy Hill spokeswoman said the man was a Woodline contractor and was on leave at the time.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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