I read an interesting article from the ABC a couple of weeks ago that reported the findings of a WA parliamentary committee. The committee was looking in to 9 suicides of FIFO workers, however with a lack of verified data, was unable to establish a clear link between the workplace conditions, and the deaths.

What the report did conclude however, was that there is a heightened riskĀ of mental health illness among FIFO workers.

The findings however are quite open to interpretation. It could be simple mathematics that draws a link between the FIFO conditions and mental health risk, with the majority of its workforce made up of at-risk 25-44 year old males, 20% of whom (according to the same article) would on average suffer some form of mental illness in Australia. The number did rise however to 30% in this investigation, and I think employers need to be considerate of the fact that their workforce is so richly comprised of the highest-risk category in the country.

Importantly, Rio Tinto and BHP have acknowledged the report, and pledged to consider the findings.

Perhaps Goodline are one company that could take this information on board, having recently removed an advertisement for ‘FIFO’ electricians, dubbed the “suicide roster”- 12 weeks on (at 56hrs p/week), 1 week off! When pressured by a union the company reported that the advertisement was posted ‘in error’, though it doesn’t sound as clear-cut.

Is it the time away from home that may contribute to a depressed state or increased risk of mental health? The nature of the work? The conditions? All further discussion would be speculation until more accurate data can be kept, or perhaps it never will be. What remains important is that companies and employees are aware of these types of investigations, and openly vigilant to their own, and colleagues’, states of mental health.

You can read the articles (and related content) in full, by clicking the links above.