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WA FIFO inquiry recommends code of practice

A Code of Practice has been recommended to address issues surrounding mental health and FIFO work arrangements

The Education and Health Standing Committee handed down its report – The impact of FIFO work practices on mental health – yesterday after 10 months investigating the factors that lead to suicide among FIFO workers.

The parliamentary inquiry was launched after nine FIFO workers took their lives in a 12-month period, and has been handed down in the same week a Pilbara FIFO worker committed suicide.

Chairman Dr Graham Jacobs said in the report that the “typical” FIFO worker come form the highest risk demographic (male 18-44) for mental illness and suicide.

“FIFO takes suck an individual regularly away from home, puts him in isolation from his family and other social supports, subjects him to fatigue and then controls his life within the camp environment,” he wrote in the report.

“Understandably, this can have a significant impact on his emotional health and wellbeing.

“Due to the high risk demographic profile and the higher incidence of mental distress amongst the FIFO group, the Committee has recommended the development of a Code of Practice to address FIFO work arrangements and their impact on workers’ mental health.

“This Code of Practice should provide guidance of best practice to promote improved mental and emotional health and wellbeing amongst the workforce.”

Dr Jacobs said the current legislation “lacks a clearly defined responsibility for workers’ health and safety once they are off-shift and residing in the accommodation facility”.

The inquiry, which received 130 formal submissions, lead to 30 key recommendations: 

1. The DMP should establish and keep an annual count of the number of FIFO and DIDO (non-resident) workers within the resources industry in Western Australia

2. The DMP should establish and keep an annual count of the number of resource workers employed on construction versus production in the resources industry

3. Given the difficulties of determining a reliable figure for FIFO suicide rates, and of determining a suitable state?wide rate, the Committee maintains it is not helpful to draw conclusions that the FIFO suicide rate is no higher than the general community

4. The Committee recommends that the Minister for Mental Health funds the Mental Health Commission to commission independent research into the mental health impacts of fly?in, fly?out work arrangements on workers and their families

5. The Committee calls on resource companies, and the industry’s peak bodies, to acknowledge and respond to the demographic information available about the resources FIFO workforce, mental illness, and suicide risk. Ignoring the confluence of these factors places the lives of workers and their wellbeing at risk.  

6. Companies and industry peak bodies must acknowledge that, regardless of contested demographic risk factors for heightened rates of mental illness and suicide, their workforce is vulnerable to suicide. Suicide is therefore a workplace hazard.  

7. The Committee recommends that the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure that clause 19(4) of the national WHS Model Act, dealing with duty of care at accommodation facilities, be included in the Western Australia Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill, to ensure that a FIFO worker occupying or residing in FIFO accommodation is not exposed to risks to health and safety, including mental health and wellbeing.

8. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure that a clause be included in the new Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill that requires the mine manager to report to the Department of Mines and Petroleum all attempted suicides and suicides at any location at a mine, including within the accommodation facilities whether on? or off? tenement, regardless of the imputed motivation.

9. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure that the Department of Mines and Petroleum policy requires that every death notification received by the department is fully investigated, regardless of initial indications suggesting a suicide may not be related to work.\

10. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure that a clause be included in the new Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill that requires the mine manager to report to the Department of Mines and Petroleum any death, by any cause, which happens in xiii any part of the mine site (including the accommodation camp), whether the worker is on? or off?shift. 

11. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum and the Department of Mines and Petroleum, in partnership with the Mental Health Commission, negotiate a Code of Practice with industry and other stakeholders that addresses FIFO work arrangements and their impact on employees’ mental health.

12. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements addresses the issue of rosters, with the aim of encouraging even?time rosters, and rosters that support mental health and wellbeing such as two weeks on, one week off, or the 8 days on, 6 days off roster. Rosters of greater compression than this can result in fatigue and pose significant risks to workers’ mental health and wellbeing, and should be reduced.  

13. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements includes an explicit acknowledgement of the impact of fatigue on mental health, and controls for managing its consequences and impact.  

14. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements includes a provision for the development of workplace cultures that are supportive of good mental health and wellbeing.

15. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures improved anti?bullying procedures be included in the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements, and that greater capacity be given to DMP to pursue and prosecute bullying claims.

16. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements emphasises the importance of providing high quality, reliable and accessible communications technology in FIFO accommodation villages.  

17. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements includes a provision requiring that Active Lifestyle Coordinators (or their equivalents) at FIFO sites receive training in mental health.  

18. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements requires the minimisation of motelling accommodation practices, and where possible, its abolition. The Code of Practice should also include measures to reduce the negative impacts of the practice of motelling.  

19. That the Drug and Alcohol Office initiates an inquiry into possible harmful drinking habits and alcohol consumption of FIFO workers, and the impact on their mental health. 

20. Industry should assess whether all of the controls applied to workers in the FIFO accommodation facilities are necessary in terms of health and safety. The level of appropriate control in the accommodation facilities should be addressed in the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements.

21. That the Mental Health Commission, in conjunction with industry and non?government organisations, develop a training program for managers and supervisors in the resources industry to address mental health issues, including suicide prevention and managing mental health problems amongst colleagues and workers.

22. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure that the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements include a requirement for training in mental health literacy for FIFO workers, their families and other resource workers.  

23. A peer?based support program such as Mates in Construction should be implemented at all FIFO sites, for both construction and production workers.

24. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures that the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements include a requirement for consistent procedures for mental health evacuations across industry, to be developed in partnership with the Mental Health Commission and the Mental Health Law Centre.

25. That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure that the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements includes a provision requiring companies to have well developed policies in place to manage a suicide or suicide attempt within their workforce. The Mental Health Commission should be consulted in the development of such policies.  

26. That the Mental Health Commission (Drug and Alcohol Office) conduct further research into the use of illicit drugs by FIFO workers, particularly the use of short?acting illicit and new synthetic substances, and the impact on mental health.  

27. Where possible, FIFO workers should be encouraged and enabled to engage with the local host community.  

28. Mining companies should engage with local host communities to ensure that the placement of accommodation facilities brings benefits to local communities, as well as benefits to the mental health of workers.  

29. That the Department of State Development investigate mechanisms to encourage resource companies to invest in providing workers the opportunity to reside in local communities in order to improve mental health.

30. The Department of State Development should develop a strategic plan for the decision? making process for the placement of FIFO accommodation camps, which must include consideration of workers’ mental health and access to local communities. Such a plan should include a community impact assessment.  

National resource industry employer group AMMA said they will work with the Western Australian Government and industry stakeholders following the recommendations from the inquiry.

“The resource industry is committed to the health and safety of its workforce, and continues to invest in best-practice programs and services to support employee mental health and wellbeing,” AMMA executive director, policy and public affairs, Scott Barklamb said.

“The findings in today’s report reflect challenges the industry has recognised and engaged with for some time. This includes the reality that, as is the case for all industries and communities, some employees in the resource industry can experience mental illness.

“It is vitally important that all stakeholders engage in sensible discussions on how to effectively address the complex issues covered in today’s report, particularly given the lack of sufficient data to make reliable conclusions on FIFO and mental health.

“Any actions following the Committee’s recommendations must be based on reliable evidence and resource industry input to deliver real mental health benefits and avoid unintended adverse impacts on the industry and its workforce.”

Mr Barklamb adds that it is positive that many of the recommendations are based on cooperation with industry.

Chief Executive of the Queensland Resources Council Michael Roche says the mental and physical health of its employees is paramount, and the findings of the inquiry will “add to our knowledge base” and “help refine long-distance commuting arrangements”.

“The QRC has developed a guide for long-distance workers, which gives prospective FIFO workers a reality check on the lifestyle, and guidance to existing FIFO workers on dealing with issues such as fatigue and loneliness,” he said.

“Here in Queensland, rosters are most often even time and generally shorter than those in WA.”

 

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