But with sliding commodity prices, FIFO workers are facing tougher rosters, down-graded food and an end to the regime where they kept their frequent flier points.
In 2015 Fortescue Metals Group announced it couldn’t afford the roster that gave workers six days off after every eight days of consecutive work, and changed to 12-hour shifts for 14 consecutive days before getting seven days off.
But while the Fortescue roster requires the employer buying fewer return flights per worker, it is also controversial in terms of the potential psychological impacts on workers.
Edith Cowan University found that FIFO workers were reported a higher level of "psychological distress" than the general population, and the distress was strongest in those working the most compressed rosters.
As Brisbane-based workplace lawyer from Clyde & Co, Fiona Austin told a Queensland mining industry Health & safety Conference this year, “A great concern for the mining industry at the moment is how to do more for safety and health with fewer resources. Many industries in the past have faced this challenge. They all must ask whether what they are doing makes sense and what they can do better with less.”
Following years of controversy over the effect FIFO operations, the Queensland Government is putting a stop to mines operating with a workforce of 100 per cent FIFO employees.
Austin’s warnings on budgets and safety is important in Queensland where mines can no longer be staffed entirely by FIFO workers.
Following years of controversy over the effect FIFO operations have on communities, the Queensland Government is stopping mines operating with a workforce of 100 per cent FIFO employees.
The WA Parliamentary Inquiry into FIFO last year found the employment practice played into significant mental health problem areas.
“The typical FIFO resource worker comes from the highest risk demographic (male aged 18 – 44) for mental illness and suicide,” said the report of the Inquiry. “FIFO takes such an individual regularly away from home, puts him in isolation from his family and other social supports, subjects him to fatigue and then controls his life within the camp environment. Understandably, this can have a significant impact on his emotional health and wellbeing.
“Independent research on mental distress in the FIFO community showed that the incidence rate is higher amongst FIFO workers than in the general population.”
Among the 30 recommendations handed down by the WA inquiry, was a suggestion that the mining industry adopt the sorts of rosters that foster good mental health.
We’ve all heard about the outrageous salaries, the crayfish dinners and the Qantas Lounge travel that accompanied Fly In-Fly Out (FIFO) resources workers.