How do workers stay healthy while working a Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) roster?
There are many important issues for FIFO workers and their families to consider. For example how to protect your back when working in a physically demanding role, food choices and healthy eating while on site, and the effects of heat stress and heat acclimatisation.
Mine site meals
Gemma Quayle, who recently completed a study looking at the diets of FIFO workers, said there was emerging evidence that onsite diet may be one of the factors behind an increased risk of chronic disease for FIFO workers.
“I examined what 35 FIFO workers ate while on site over a three-day period,” she said.
“The average number of servings of vegetables were below recommendations, while many were consuming excessive amounts of discretionary food such as processed meats, pastries, fried food and desserts.”
More than 80% of the men involved in the study were overweight or obese, compared to 70 per cent of men in the general population.
“We know that carrying extra weight, particularly around the waist, comes with an increased risk of chronic disease,” Ms Quayle said.
Ms Quayle said there were some small changes workers could make to improve their diets.
“At sites with self-serve dining halls it is best to limit yourself to one plate, and try to have at least half of the plate filled with vegetables,” she said.
“Swapping out a sugary desert like cake or ice-cream for fruit is another way to cut down on discretionary food.”
Hot tips for heat stress
Exercise and Health Science Associate Professor Jacques Oosthuizen investigated the effects of heat stress and how workers can stay healthy in the extreme heat of WA’s North West.
“We know it takes the body about seven days to acclimatise to extreme heat,” he said.
“You have workers flying from Tasmania and Melbourne to the North West to work so their bodies have to adapt to very different conditions.
Professor Oosthuizen said the best way for workers to protect themselves against heat stress was to know the warning signs.
“If you start feeling dizzy and fatigued and you stop sweating, you need to get into the shade to rest and make sure you’re drinking enough water.”
Edith Cowan University researchers are working on a number of projects examining the impact of the FIFO lifestyle.
- Philippa Vojnovic is researching the pressure on the mental health of FIFO workers. She has found that while most companies offer support programs, there is a stigma attached to seeking help which is preventing workers accessing the services.
- Jacinth Watson is investigating how a parent’s FIFO roster affects the resilience of their adolescent children.
(Source: Edith Cowan University)