Beating fatigue and keeping stress at bay on the mine site

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Mining Family Matters recently received an email from a mining industry worker managing FIFO contractor groups on construction projects in WA. The company was struggling to meet construction targets while at the same time staying within stringent fatigue management guidelines. "The majority of the contractors are FIFO," he wrote. "They live in camp accommodation within the town and work a six-day week, having a leisure day on Sunday. From my observations this leisure day does not provide a lot of R&R when you are in a camp situation – in some cases it can be more stressful than working, especially if you are not into fishing which is the most popular activity here. Wondering if you have any similar situations or ideas on fatigue management for FIFO?"

So we put the question to the health experts at Kinetic Health. Here’s their advice:

Social and recreational activities on rostered days off are vital. It might be running/fitness classes, fishing charters or a pool competition – all of these activities help to ensure that miners don't feel isolated and bored and have something that's fun to look forward to, rather than just sleeping or watching TV.

Fatigue is a massive area, encompassing many factors including nutrition, physical activity and sleep patterns. The key is education – and structured, well-organised activities. A few other examples onsite might include:

  • Tours around the local area
  • Book club
  • DVDs involving fitness classes
  • Fitness and sporting competitions
  • Walking/running classes
  • Social club (quiz nights, raffles etc)
  • Cooking classes
  • Photography competitions
  • Board and card games
  • Meditation and stretching sessions

Without some form of R&R that helps miners to unwind, it's easy to fall victim to stress. This refers to a situation that causes feelings of discomfort, tension and distress. Mild levels of stress are important and some people thrive on this to enable them to get things done and deal positively with physical and emotional challenges. Stress becomes a problem when the demands made on a person exceed their ability to cope, which differs from one person to the next.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Back pain and muscle tension  
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Sexual problems

Mental symptoms can include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Hopelessness and depression
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Anger

Stress will affect your whole body, lowering your immunity and increasing your susceptibility to disease. It might also aggravate conditions such as high blood pressure, hair loss, heart disease, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and diabetes.

Here’s how to manage stress:

  • Be Active: try to do some form of exercise that gets a slight raise in your heart rate every day for 20 minutes or more. Use it to unwind and switch off.
  • Relax: give yourself some time out to relax every day. Make time for you.
  • Nutrition: eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and avoid too many sweet and fatty foods, which will send your blood sugar high then low. Eat fresh and feel fresh and light.
  • Sleep: get into a good regular sleeping pattern, allowing for shift changes.
  • Manage conflict: avoid situations that make you feel stressed as much as you can. Identify, prepare for and manage these high-stress situations.
  • Support: share your worries with genuine friends who offer support and positive advice. Surround yourself with a good support network.

Ideally, the mine site workforce requires some form of training to deal with fatigue and stress among workers. Kinetic Health offers specialists to deliver presentations and workshops to improve alertness levels and minimise fatigue. We also provide Wellness Consultants on many sites to deliver social and recreational activities on RDOs. This helps to ensure that workers really make the most of their time off, and return for their next shift feeling refreshed, healthy, positive and alert.

More expert advice on health and wellbeing

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Borne of the merger of Gemini Medical Services and Prime Health Group, Kinetic Health boasts almost 50 years of combined experience in corporate medicine. With a national network of wholly owned medical clinics, a vast array of occupational health services, and the expertise and capacity to deliver in remote as well as metropolitan locations, Kinetic Health are the "Go To People" for corporate and community healthcare. Proudly Australian, their understanding of customer needs ensures they are proactive and decisive in their approach to corporate medicine. They're passionate about the health of your business – and about the people within it. They deliver healthcare to large and small corporate and community groups through for key service offerings: Safety & Training; Health & Wellness; Onsite Medicals; and Clinical Services. For more information visit www.kinetichealth.com.au or call 1300 793 004.