Sleeping bodies are photographed in the carpark of Emerald Airport in freezing temperatures on the cold cement and benches.
Sleeping bodies are photographed in the carpark of Emerald Airport in freezing temperatures on the cold cement and benches.

FIFO looking like tired idea

THEY’RE on six-figure salaries and there’s no doubt a soft pillow and warm bed waiting at home, but one FIFO and his mate were doing it tough this week waiting for their flights.

Catching some shut-eye on cold, hard concrete in the Emerald Airport carpark, the dog-tired men were power-napping, prone on a pathway and bench.

Queensland Mining Communities president Kelly Vea Vea said she wasn’t shocked by the sight which she said was becoming more common at regional airports linked to the mines.

“Well, I suppose I’m not surprised because these companies are forcing people into these FIFO and drive in, drive out conditions without mitigating against the issue of fatigue management,” she told Central Queensland News.

Central Queensland University chronobiology and sleep Associate Professor Dr Naomi Rogers said the resource industry needed to adopt a standard fatigue management plan in place of the existing guidelines.

While she conceded the guidelines were “a good start”, Dr Rogers urged mining companies to adopt a standardised plan to minimise potential harm and fatalities as a result of long working hours.

“When a worker checks out of their room at the camp for their final shift before they go home, they immediately lose that room when someone else checks in so they don’t have the chance to rest before they drive the seven or eight hours home to their families,” Dr Rogers said.

“The accommodation shortage has a direct link to worker fatigue, and as a result, they are sleeping in cars, on the side of the road, or wherever they can.”

Dr Rogers referred to the coronial inquest into the deaths of Norwich Park and Blackwater mine workers as the first real investigation into the dangers of fatigue.

Although it was a good start, she hoped the study findings to be presented at the Queensland Mining Health and Safety conference in Townsville later this year would contribute toward fatigue management reform at mine sites.

The preliminary findings of the study to be presented at the conference were suggested to an unnamed Bowen Basin mining company management, who rejected the recommendations, prompting the CFMEU to withdraw its support of the policy.

CFMEU Industry Safety and Health representative Chris Gilbert said the demands put on workers to meet increased production levels amid the resource boom put lives at risk and were not addressed in the policy.

“With all the extended shifts and compressed rosters, such as doing 12 and 14-hour days to have more time on the coast, the dangers of fatigue increase,” Mr Gilbert said.

“It’s not just the shifts but the travel time to and from the site and then the general things workers have to do to stay alive that cut into the amount of sleep they are getting.”

Hundreds of residents, families and small business owners are expected to turn out next Tuesday to one of Moranbah’s biggest ever community meetings protesting BMA’s application for a 100% FIFO workforce at its Caval Ridge mine.

Ms Vea Vea said councils across the Bowen Basin and coastal strip between Mackay and Rockhampton, businesses and mine workers understood 100% FIFO set a bad precedent.

“In a time where mining companies are achieving world record profits and landbanking considerable amounts of residential land, people should have the freedom to choose if they would like to live locally or commute, without being forced into a transient lifestyle,” she said. “This application is bad for families, bad for communities and bad for Central Queensland’s economy because 100% of any economic benefit will fly out with this project. This precedent would open the floodgates for unsustainable development, population imbalance and reduce the livability of our regional centres and mining communities.”

Council’s head of Commercial Services and airport operations Col Dziewicki said with Clermont airport closed for upgrading, there was increased traffic through Emerald. He admitted he was unaware people were sleeping at the airport.

“If it gets to the point where it’s disruptive to the rest of the airport we will be taking some action,” he said.

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