A recent report from The University of Newcastle has found that each year 10,000 mining company employees experience mental health problems, with anxiety, depression and substance abuse the most commonly reported issues.
And while the consequences of the work related stress in that environment are well known and documented, the causes were largely unknown, at least until now.
AccessEAP, a corporate psychology organisation which supports and develops positive organisational behaviour, has worked closely with large number of mining organisations to reveal the causes of stress Australian miners experience in the workplace.
By analysing and compiling data received from mining organisations, AccessEAP was able to pinpoint the top five triggers of workplace stress in the mining industry, which rank in the following order:
- Job insecurity
- Conflict with colleagues/managers
- Bullying and harassment
- Job isolation
- Long working hours
“AccessEAP data has found that job insecurity is the top trigger for workplace stress in the mining industry. A recent report found that job insecurity rose from 26% to 31% during the second half of 2013. An ABS report from August this year places unemployment at 6.4 per cent, the highest rate since 2002,” said Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Manager at AccessEAP.
“The mining industry is experiencing a lot of uncertainty with as many as 75,000 mining-related jobs expected to be lost over the next couple of years as Australia enters phase three of the mining boom. This amounts to about one third of all mining-related jobs so it’s no surprise that job insecurity is a stress trigger.”
Due to the high risk and high pressure environment that surrounds the mining industry, conflict with colleagues and managers is also considerably higher than many other industries.
“Miners often work long hours which itself can be a source of stress. The high risk of injury and accident has huge mental health implications. There is a need to change the culture within the industry to be inclusive and promote good mental health for all,” added Slepica.
“When people feel under pressure to achieve or feel there are high expectations related to long hours, high volumes, or perceived pressure from management, tensions may run high and the result is increased conflict in the workplace. This may lead to bullying and harassment and our data shows that mining employees are requesting support for conflict, bullying and harassment.”
Working in a FIFO based working environment requires a major lifestyle adjustment as workers live away from home and their families for extended periods of time. Ms Slepica said this has always been a trigger of stress within the mining industry.
“Whereas many workers cope with the unique set of circumstances that living in a FIFO regime or living in a remote mining town represents, it is not a lifestyle that suits everybody and the impact of this change on individuals and families can be far reaching and creates its own unique stressors,” she said.
“The nature of the industry means that miners are working long hours often with rotating rosters including night and twelve hour shifts and are often away from family and loved ones for long periods of time. The pressure and strain of long hours can lead to stress and impact on relationships and well-being, if not managed correctly.”