FIFO workers are already big drinkers
FIFO workers 'are already' big drinkers

Fly-in, fly-out workers have significantly higher rates of smoking, risky drinking and obesity compared with other workers, according to a Health Department study.

It also found FIFOs were less likely to report they were struggling with mental health problems but more likely to report they had an injury than other workers.

The research, based on self-reported health behaviour collected in surveys between 2008 and 2010, compared 380 FIFO workers with 913 shiftworkers and 10,613 other workers in WA.

Co-authored by WA's public health chief, Tarun Weeramanthri, the study's results were published online this week in the Internal Medicine Journal.

It found FIFO workers drank more alcohol - consuming about four drinks in a day - and more often, three times a week.

The working patterns of FIFOs had been shown to disrupt sleep, lead to depression and poor mental health and increase the risk of peptic ulcers, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

But study researchers suggested it was not the FIFO lifestyle itself which caused risky health patterns but rather that people who went into those jobs had a "different socio-demographic" profile. This meant more needed to be done to improve workers' physical and mental health, including reviewing shift patterns.

"FIFO workers are expected to increase in numbers over the next decade as the mining and resources sector expands in Australia," they said.

"Our findings suggest that health interventions, whether in the workplace or clinical settings, need to be informed by the demographic mix of the workers on entry, as they are not a homogenous group."

Andrew Watt, senior associate with Creating Communities and responsible for FIFO community work in the North West, said some habits such as drinking were present in workers before they started their FIFO jobs.

He said more was being done to improve workers' health but it was still common to see them lumped together, including the notion they all drank heavily.

"A common misperception is that FIFO workers are young guys with tatts and drinking all the time but our research shows many have children of adolescent age or even older, and it's not just males," he said.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

More from The West