The West Australian
Updated June 13, 2013
ne of Australia's biggest studies of fly-in, fly-out work has
uncovered stress, divorce, psychological disorders, a reliance on drugs
and alcohol to cope and a stigma attached to seeking help as being
prevalent among WA workers.
The anonymous online survey of 924
fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workers, which was conducted by
suicide prevention group Lifeline WA, revealed a series of mental,
physical and emotional issues affecting workers in WA's 90,000-strong
READ THE SURVEY
THE FINAL REPORT
particularly those away for long periods and with young children,
reported becoming increasingly stressed during the rotation, peaking in
the days before they left for work again.
The stress was largely
caused by separation from their homes and family and most FIFO workers
said they had minimal knowledge of the realities of FIFO before joining
Lifeline WA chief executive Fiona Kalaf said though
there was considerable focus on employees' physical safety, there was
limited focus on the emotional and mental health of these workers and
The research, which was sponsored by Pilbara
company Raw Hire, showed even when workers were aware of formal help
offered by their employers, there was a reluctance to take it.
is the main barrier to help-seeking, with the principal reason workers
do not reach out for assistance being the fear of appearing to be
'soft', weak or unable to cope," she said.
The other main barrier was the inability to access services on remote work sites
significant number - one in 10 - of the FIFO workers were divorced and
those divorcees reported lower wellbeing, higher stress and lower
quality relationships with family and friends.
The research also showed a higher prevalence of psychological distress among FIFO workers, compared with the general population.
FIFO workers said the main benefits of the jobs were the high pay and
being able to spend quality time with family during their time off.
Bourke, who has five-month-old Connor with husband Steve who works four
weeks on with one week off, echoed the views of many FIFO workers in
the survey in believing rosters should be capped at a maximum of three
"I just think it comes down to the roster," she said.
"It's really hard on families. All other stuff can be worked through. At
the end of the day, it's what we signed up to do but him not being here
Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA chief executive Reg
Howard-Smith said FIFO work was a popular and growing work practice for
tens of thousands of employees in the resources sector and essential to
meet the industry's needs.
He said companies had introduced
initiatives such as buddy systems, free counselling and in-room internet
so employees could communicate with their partners and family.
Tinto spokesman Gervase Greene said helping its 4000 iron-ore division
FIFO workers deal with the challenges of the rosters was an important
part of the company's culture.