FIFO families need extra focus on emotional support, communication and hygiene during pandemic

Published:27 March 2020

FIFO researcher Kristie-Lee Alfrey

Australia’s FIFO miners and their families should be ramping up their hygiene practices, their communication methods and their emotional supports, as they face major changes due to COVID-19.

And the periods of ‘transitioning’ between mine site and family home need special consideration.

That’s according to CQUniversity FIFO researcher Kristie-Lee Alfrey, who says the pandemic may also bring implications for physical activity, moderation of alcohol and smoking, and sleep disturbances due to stress.

“I think that FIFO workers and their families need to really commit to the hygiene practices that are currently being recommended,” Mrs Alfrey says.

“While on site, the FIFO worker needs to protect themselves, their camp community and their work site – this means hand washing, surface sanitising and social distancing at every possible opportunity.

“It should also mean that workers refrain from moving about the community in which their campsite is based.

“When at home, these practices should continue to keep their families (or whomever is living with them) safe. The at-home partner/family should also be vigilant in the same manner.

“Because the worker is transitioning, there might be an increased chance of infection, so there should be an increased practice of hygiene practices.

“Whether the worker remains on site, remains ‘on the move’, or remains at home (and I think this goes for everyone – not just the FIFO community), we need to make sure the lines of communication between partners and families remain open, honest and supportive.

“Funnily enough, isolation is isolating. But having a regular line of communication where partners and workers can talk about how they are feeling day-to-day, checking in on how each other’s worlds are changing, and supporting each other emotionally is extremely important.

“When the worker comes home, it’s important to keep these lines of communication open as both parties are navigating their own new lifestyles within an already unique lifestyle.

“Remember that this is new territory for both the worker and the partner.

“At home, the FIFO partner may be trying to navigate children being home along with working at home. The worker will be facing the unknown with their own work, and then return to a home that may be still adjusting. Basically, we’re all in a limbo and we just need to be kind to ourselves and to the people around us and understand that this a very complex situation for a lot of people.”