It’s been a few years since the WA Standing Committee completed the review on mental health and FIFO work arrangements. Since that time Western Australia has seen a change of state government. The previous Liberal Government failed to act on the 30 recommendations of the inquiry that questioned rosters and support and highlighted an increased rate of mental health decline in workers on FIFO work arrangements. Particularly for those on extended swings away from home.
There’s a continued series of research being undertaken to further investigate the problem with the new Labor Government supporting the University of WA’s Centre for Transformative Work Design with $498,841 to carry out research into the well-being and mental health impact of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) arrangements on workers.
MLA Roger Cook Deputy Premier; Minister for Health and Mental Health announced at the Safety Institute of Australia‘s WA Safety Symposium last week that a key focus within this term of government is to develop a Code of Practice for mental health around FIFO work arrangements.
Research in final completion is that by Phillipa Vojnovic who was featured on Sky News discussing the stresses of FIFO work arrangements in relation to suicide numbers. Punishing rosters and long stints away from home are taking a toll on the fly-in-fly-out community with a growing number of workers taking their own lives. Former CEO of Mates in Construction Godfrey Baronie told Sky News fly-in-fly-out workers are reporting feeling like prisoners with a call to:
‘… rethink physiological safety. That needs to be the new thinking that we have.’
Recent research conducted using The Tap Into Safety mental health training solution found that
‘Fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers who spend a longer time at the workplace are less anxious and depressed than those on a shorter ‘swing’. FIFO workers on a 14/7 swing, were less stressed, anxious and depressed than those on an 8/6 swing’.
Key findings were released in a white paper on the evaluation of Tap Into Safety’s mental health training by Edith Cowan University School of Business. The results showed that because workers on shorter swings have to keep coming in and out of home, the relationship strain of re-assimilating is possibly causing them more trouble. However, the data did not include employees on extended FIFO swings of 4/6/8/12 weeks away from home.
The key question going forward is what is the best FIFO swing and how can we better support those engaged in FIFO work?
ABC News podcast
ABC News published the key results of the five-month trial of Tap Into Safety’s mental health training on 17th October 2017. The article notes that the mental health app assists companies develop workplace wellbeing programs and that the trial showed some unexpected results for FIFO workers.
Listen to the audio below:
“Fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers who spend a longer time at the workplace are less anxious and depressed than those on a shorter ‘swing’ as it is known”, reporter Babs McHugh writes. Dr Susanne Bahn provided an in-depth interview last week (you might like listen to a snippet of the radio interview) to discuss the findings of the trial with the Chandler Macleod Group staff of over 3000 where this year 636 staff in WA, SA and NT, completed the All of Me training modules over a 5 month period. Key findings were released in WA Mental Health Week 7-13th October 2017, along with a white paper on the evaluation by Edith Cowan University School of Business.
“The analysis shows that when businesses are undertaking well being programs, it can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Dr Bahn said.
Dr Bahn said some of the results from that cohort, which is known to have higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, were unexpected.
“FIFO workers on a 14/7 swing, in other words 14 days on [at the workplace] and seven days off [at home], were less stressed, anxious and depressed than those on an 8/6 swing,” she said.
“We had thought those on the shorter swing would cope better, but these results show that maybe because they’ve got to keep coming in and out of home, the relationship strain of re-assimilating is causing them more trouble.”
Please note that the data we had to work with did not include employees on extended FIFO swings of 4/6/8/12 weeks away from home. We would expect their results to also show declining mental health and quite possibly far worse results that those on the 8/6 swing.