The Western Australian Government has released its final code of practice for addressing mental health factors of FIFO workers in the resources and construction sectors. 

Entitled, Mentally healthy workplaces for fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers in the resources and construction sectors (“Code”), the Code encourages employers who operate FIFO arrangements to take a risk management approach to identifying psychosocial hazards and risk factors in their workplaces.

The Code defines such hazards at page 2 as follows:

Workplace psychosocial hazards are related to the psychological and social conditions of the workplace rather than just the physical conditions. These include stress, fatigue, bullying, violence, aggression, harassment and burnout, which can be harmful to the health of workers and compromise their wellbeing.

There are also risk factors (e.g. misuse of alcohol or other drugs, poor change management) that increase the risk or susceptibility for harm to health from exposure to a hazard.

The risk management approach for mental health and wellbeing involves:

  • identifying the psychological hazards and risk factors
  • assessing the risks and identifying appropriate controls
  • making the changes necessary to eliminate or minimise the risk of harm

While the Code provides examples of some of the work-related psychological hazards and risk factors, it is not exhaustive and employers are encouraged to consider if there are any others that may exist in their workplaces.

Contentious roster recommendations remain in Code

A contentious point for resources and energy employers will be the Code’s recommendations around what it defines as risk factors relating to rostering and accommodation arrangements.

Most notably, the Code encourages employers to consider even-time or shorter rosters that it argues provides a balance between work and socialisation and better promotes mentally healthy outcomes for FIFO employees. Rosters that are designed with the forward rotation of shifts (day to afternoon to night shift) are linked to improved fatigue management, the Code says.

To reduce stress on FIFO employees, the Code says consideration should also be given to accommodation arrangements that are predictable and avoid changes in the middle of a roster (i.e. stopping ‘motelling’). Accommodation processes, including cleaning schedules and check in and check out, should be streamlined to minimise disruptions to FIFO workers.

While some of the recommendations will be contentious among the industry, AMMA welcomes the purpose of the Code being to provide guidance to employers on achieving the highest possible standard of mental health and wellbeing on Western Australian resources sites.

AMMA facilitates a Mental Health Working Group, comprising various members committed to best practice when it comes to mental health in the Australian resources and energy industry. To learn more, or for any comments about the new WA Code of Practice, contact [email protected].