13/10/2015 - 15:52

State responds to FIFO mental health inquiry

13/10/2015 - 15:52

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The state government has announced it supports half of the 30 recommendations stemming from a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of fly-in, fly-out work on the mental health of those in the resources industry, after considering the findings for nearly four months.

State responds to FIFO mental health inquiry
Mines and Petroleum minister Bill Marmion. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government has announced it supports half of the 30 recommendations stemming from a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of fly-in, fly-out work on the mental health of those in the resources industry, after considering the findings for nearly four months. 

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion said today the government supported 14 of the recommendations, “noted” 15, and partially supported one of the recommendations.

It’s estimated about 60,000 people in WA work in fifo roles.

Business News has asked the fifo mental health inquiry chairman Graham Jacobs for his views on the government’s response.

While he could not respond before our deadline today, an update including his opinion and those of others involved in the mental health sector, will be made once available.

Recommendations supported by the government included: recording and annually updating the number of fifo workers in WA; the proportion of fifo workers versus those residentially based (on both construction and production projects); and funding a database for recording and monitoring deaths related to fifo workers in Western Australia.

Other supported recommendations included: funding Mental Health Commission research into the mental health impacts of fifo work on workers and their families; updating legislation to require mine managers to report all attempted suicides and suicides; and ensuring every death notification be fully investigated (regardless of initial indications a suicide may not be related to work).

Recommendations that fifo workers be encouraged and enabled to engage with local communities, and that mining communities should also try and enable this, was also supported, along with the recommendation that the Department of State Development should investigate ways to encourage resources companies to provide workers with the opportunity to live within these local communities. 

The state also supported calls to update legislation to require mine managers to report any death, by any cause, that occurs on any part of the mine site, regardless of whether the worker is on or off shift.

It partially supported the recommendation that the Department of Mines and Petroleum, in partnership with the Mental Health Commission, negotiate a code of conduct that addresses fifo work arrangements and their impact on employees’ mental health.

Recommendations that this code of conduct include explicit acknowledgement of the impact of fatigue on mental health and controls for managing its consequences and impact were supported, along with ensuring the code includes a provision for the development of workplace cultures that are supportive of good mental health and wellbeing and the code emphasise the importance of providing high-quality, reliable and accessible communications technology within fifo camps. 

Mr Marmion said the state government would work with the Mining Industry Advisory Committee and the Mental Health Commission to address the report’s recommendation.

“Many of the aims and objectives of the recommendations can be achieved by reviewing and strengthening existing codes of practice,” he said.

The state government’s response is more positive than the federal government’s response to a similar, but separate inquiry.

Dr Jacobs has previously called the federal government’s decision (following two years of consideration) to agree to only four of 21 recommendations from a House of Representatives standing committee report into fifo practices and mental health as “lame”.

Fifo Australian Community of Excellence co-convener and Edith Cowan University researcher, Philippa Vojnovic, previously told Business News the federal government’s decision to reject five recommendations, “note” 12, and agree in varying degrees (totally, in part and in-principle) to follow up on four recommendations, was disappointing and ignored the issue.

When Dr Jacobs released his findings and 30 recommendations in WA’s inquiry earlier this year, he said he was confident WA could enact all of them.

“I believe there’s enough teeth there ... to make this happen,” he said in June.

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