Coronavirus pandemic sees psychological distress soar to 40 per cent among WA FIFO workers
The full toll of the COVID-19 crisis on WA’s fly-in, fly-out workforce is starting to show with 40 per cent of those surveyed in a new study reporting psychological distress — up from 33 per cent before the pandemic.
The Curtin University research also found an increased risk of suicide among miners following the introduction of isolation and quarantine measures to allow the State’s resources industry to continue to operate, The Australian reported.
Research leader Sharon Parker told The Australian companies needed to address FIFO rosters, with some employees spending up to four or six weeks on site in an effort to minimise movements.
Professor Parker said that while the results were preliminary, with the sample small at 275 workers, they confirmed fears that mental health had worsened for an “already vulnerable group of workers”.
“In our previous research (a major 2018 study) we found suicide risk was higher for this group of workers compared to Australian norms, so there was already cause for concern,” she said.
“Our preliminary analyses for the FIFO workers during COVID-19 suggest that many more workers are at risk than was even the case shown in our previous research, which is worrying.”
“Pre-COVID … we spent a lot of time debating with the chamber of commerce about having better rosters, such as one week on, one week off. We got a lot of pushback from industry because … there is a cost implication for that roster.”
WA has about 60,000 FIFO workers, about 6000 who are from interstate.
Interstate FIFO workers have been hit hardest because of the closed borders, with some left marooned in WA for months and unable to leave and return without spending 14 days in quarantine.
Professor Parker said many workers feared raising concerns about mental health because they thought it might harm their career.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide CallBack Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
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