Don't wait to ask, FIFO workmates urged


Friday, 29 July, 2016


With up to 1 in 3 fly-in fly-out workers reportedly experiencing mental health difficulties1, as part of a new campaign, suicide prevention organisation R U OK? is urging workmates to support one another before they hit rock bottom.

Given that safety and risk aversion is at the heart of FIFO work practices, the campaign is a much-needed reminder that identifying emotional danger in the workplace isn’t as obvious as identifying physical danger.

With the number of Australians taking their own lives on the rise to almost eight deaths every day2, R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher urges employers and business leaders to do more to foster workplace cultures that encourage peer-to-peer conversations about wellbeing.

“Working away from family and friends inevitably takes a toll on people; especially if they’re dealing with issues at home. We need to remind workmates to watch out for the subtle changes that suggest someone isn’t coping so well.

“Sharing this campaign within your organisation — and championing it in a genuine, authentic way — is one strategy all team leaders can employ to foster positive talking behaviour between peers.”

The new campaign materials include a range of posters, videos, a step-by-step flow chart to have a conversation, and toolbox talking points for managers to share with their teams. The visual across the resources features three workers — two wearing high-visibility clothing and one receding into darkness. The scenario serves as a prompt to genuinely ask after each other more often.

R U OK? Scientific Advisor and Lifeline Executive Director Alan Woodward said that research shows that men, in particular, need to be encouraged to speak up when they’re struggling.

“We know that people are more likely to turn to family, friends and workmates during times of stress, so it’s vital that workmates are empowered to have open and non-judgemental conversations,” Alan said. “It’s not about fixing someone’s problems — it’s about giving them the confidence and reassurance that they’re not alone. And if necessary being positive about the role of health experts in improving mental wellbeing.”

The FIFO campaign is supported by the global helicopter transportation services company Bristow. The human resources manager of the Asia Pacific Region, Keir Williams, said the campaign is being launched at a critical time.

“While company executives are asking themselves what they can and should be doing to help support their employees through uncertain times, it’s also important that peers look out for one another,” Keir said. “FIFO workmates are best placed to understand the impact and challenges of working remotely for long periods, and therefore best placed to support each other through that.”

The resources can be downloaded from 29 July 2016 at ruok.org.au/afield.

  1. Parliament of Western Australia 2015, The impact of FIFO work practices on mental health - final report.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2014, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3303.0>
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