FIFO report an important step in achieving better mental health outcomes for all WA workers

Today’s release of a report into the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers will be an important step in ensuring the efforts of WA resources companies in continuously improving the health and safety of its workforce are effective and meaningful. 

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) welcomed the release of Curtin University’s report as it had long advocated for further research to inform evidence-based mental health policy.

CME chief executive Paul Everingham said a study of this size could not have been undertaken without the support of the resources sector, who had actively distributed and promoted the survey to its workforce.

“Mental health issues exist throughout the entire community.  As a major employer in the State, the WA resources sector is committed to ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of its workforce as part of its ongoing commitment to health and safety,” he said.

“The research sheds further light on the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers and CME will work closely with our members to review, consider and respond to the recommendations in this report.

“In recent years, the industry has been investing significantly in areas that address many of the recommendations in the report, such as:

  • Facilitating access to counselling and other services;
  • Peer support programs and initiatives to break down stigma;
  • Broader health and wellbeing promotion – including physical fitness and diet;
  • Providing mechanisms to stay connected with family and support networks while working away from home; and
  • Community engagement and partnerships with wellbeing and mental health service providers.

“When it comes to looking after the safety and health of employees in the workplace, there will always be room to improve and it’s imperative we keep doing so. This research will greatly assist companies in reviewing existing strategies to ensure they are directed in the most appropriate areas and are achieving meaningful results.

“CME has recently partnered with Lifeline to work to provide a suite of industry-specific tools to support organisations as they continue to improve on-site mental health strategies to accommodate these latest research findings.  In addition, CME is in discussions with other trusted mental health organisations to ensure industry has access to the appropriate resources in line with the report’s recommendations.

“Importantly, the report encourages companies to improve promotion of these already available support options such as employee assistance programs and helplines, as this may increase the incidence of workers seeking help.

“Improvements can always be made and while this research project provides important insights, ongoing research is needed to assist in building an evidence base to support government policy responses and company strategies.

“As outlined in the report, there are limitations with the benchmark group used to compare the FIFO worker results.   The report makes many assertions based on a comparison with this benchmark group, and CME considers further research is required to examine possible associations between FIFO, other work factors and mental health.”

Mr Everingham said today’s findings were relevant to all workplaces, regardless of how employees commuted to work.

“The resources industry is not alone in its work to address mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and the complex issues of mental health conditions and suicide are felt across broader society,” he said.

“The findings demonstrate a complex set of work and non-work factors contribute to mental health outcomes and CME supports the need for industry, government and communities to work together with a focus on early intervention and reducing stigma in order to improve mental health outcomes across the Western Australian community.”