FIFO Mental Health Data Lacking: Perth Inquiry

Information about suicides among the fly-in fly-out community is unreliable, a West Australian parliamentary committee has found.

The committee conducted an inquiry into the mental health of FIFO workers after nine reportedly took their lives over a 12 month period.

In handing down its interim report on Thursday, the committee said it was not able to confirm those figures, but that was “hardly surprising given the absence of reliable data”.

“We are quite surprised in the fact there is no central, comprehensive database saying where the reporting has occurred and what has occurred,” committee chair Graham Jacobs said.

Department of Mines and Petroleum’s Simon Ridge had told the inquiry that mental health was not a part of current resources sector safety legislation.

And when an employee took their own life, not only was there no requirement to record whether or not they were a FIFO worker, it was not considered a suicide if it didn’t occur on site and during rostered hours.

Mr Ridge also pointed out that it was “moronic” and “silly” that two separate government departments – his own and Worksafe – dealt with resources sector health and safety.

“There’s no accurate data that we can look at … and I think that’s an enormous problem,” committee member Rob Johnson said.

“It’s spread over the police, Coroner’s office, mining companies and so on.”

He said data collection started to improve over the course of the three-month inquiry – and there was one suicide on a WA mine site on each of those months.

The inquiry also heard resources sector workers feared they would lose their jobs if they revealed they had a mental health issue.

Separation from family and friends meant they were less able to seek help, and working high compression rosters with travel arrangements that ate into time off contributed to stress and fatigue.

The committee will hand down its final report next year.

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