Nathan Rowden says McDermott is working to ameliorate the downside of working offshore. Photo:Jeffry Lim

Wellness program targets Fifo isolation

There is no doubt that fly-in, fly-out workers face significant professional and personal challenges in their roles with key resources projects across the state.

And while issues arising from land-based worker camps are becoming better known and managed, how much (if at all) does the added isolation of those toiling offshore on Western Australia’s oil and gas projects amplify these factors?

In recognition of what it says is a gap between occupational health and safety measures and the mental and emotional strains shaped by Fifo conditions, global construction contractor McDermott last year introduced a targeted health and wellness program for its staff working offshore on Inpex’s Ichthys LNG project.


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The disconnect between Fifo workers and their families is a concern. Some employers invest in their workers by paying for them to participate in events with the families, almost forcing the workers to connect with their families and others in the community. One event ideally suited is the Perth Ramble - a four-hour charity event in the streets of Perth - a mix between a treasure hunt and an Amazing Race. Suits all fitness levels and ages.

The root cause of immediate distress begins in the recruitment process. A number of applicants are just not suited to such a disjointed work/life balance and are attracted solely by remuneration. A solution is a more robust recruitment process and focused pre-employment psych testing by professionals. A second root cause is driven by a corporate culture that says 'enough is never enough', and is a combination of the effects of consecutive 12-hour shifts (rosters) work practices, drugs, alcohol and under-developed and immature site supervision. A solution here could be a local code of practice across the industry as a whole. This a real safety issue that injures minds and family relationships. The government needs to lead the industry and consummate a study and pass legislation, that among other things controls and tightens up Fifo rosters, leave, equitable working conditions, alcohol/drug testing, dismissal, alcohol/drugs and professional social services support.

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