What FIFO Workers Need to Know About Injury Claims

Best Injury Lawyers Insights  |  January 16, 2024
workers in fluorescent jackets and hard hats at mining site

In industries like mining and construction, particularly in regions like Brisbane and Queensland, FIFO workers play a crucial role. FIFO, which stands for Fly-In Fly-Out, refers to a unique employment arrangement, but it also comes with specific challenges, especially when it comes to workplace injuries.

Understanding how injury claims work for FIFO workers is vital, not only for the workers themselves but also for their employers and the industries they serve. This blog aims to shed light on the important aspects of injury claims specific to FIFO workers.

What is a FIFO Worker?

FIFO workers are employees who travel to remote work sites for extended periods, typically in industries like mining, construction, or oil and gas. Unlike regular commuters, FIFO workers don’t live near their workplaces. Instead, they ‘fly in’ to the work site for their rostered shift duration, which can be weeks or even months, and then ‘fly out’ back to their homes for their off-shift period. This arrangement is particularly common in Brisbane and Queensland, where large mining and construction projects often take place in remote areas, far from urban centres.

The nature of FIFO work is demanding. Workers often face long shifts, harsh working conditions, and the emotional strain of being away from family and friends for extended periods. These factors not only impact their health and well-being but also raise unique challenges in terms of workplace safety and injury claims. In the following sections, we’ll explore these challenges and what FIFO workers need to know about injury claims.

Common Health Issues of FIFO Workers

FIFO workers face a unique set of health challenges due to the nature of their work and lifestyle. These challenges can be broadly categorised into physical and mental health issues.

Physical Health Challenges

  • Injury Risks: The physical demands of FIFO work, especially in industries like mining and construction, increase the risk of injuries. This includes accidents due to heavy machinery, falls, and repetitive strain injuries.
  • Fatigue: Long shifts and extended periods of work without a break can lead to chronic fatigue. This not only affects physical health but also increases the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Exposure to Harmful Substances: In certain industries, FIFO workers may be exposed to harmful substances like dust, chemicals, or gases, which can have long-term health impacts.
man using saw on wood planks on construction site

Mental Health Challenges

  • Isolation and Loneliness: Being away from family and friends for extended periods can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, impacting mental health.
  • Stress and Anxiety: The pressure of long working hours, combined with the isolation of being away from home, can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Disruption to Normal Life: The FIFO lifestyle can disrupt normal social and family life, which can affect mental well-being and lead to issues such as depression.

The health issues faced by FIFO workers differ significantly from those faced by regular employees due to several factors.

The long periods away from familiar environments and support networks can exacerbate both physical and mental health challenges. Meanwhile, intensive on-site work schedules, often involving 12-hour shifts for consecutive days, increase the risk of physical injury and mental fatigue. Many FIFO workers are based in remote locations with extreme weather conditions, which can pose additional health risks.

A report from the Education and Health Standing Committee found that:

  • FIFO workers experience significantly higher levels of psychological distress, including feelings of anxiety and depression, compared to a benchmark group.
  • One-third of FIFO workers reported experiencing “high” or “very high” psychological distress.
  • Burnout rates were notably higher among FIFO workers than the benchmark group.
  • Sleep quality for FIFO workers was significantly worse in comparison.
  • FIFO workers reported higher instances of being bullied and witnessing bullying.
  • A sense of isolation, heightened by being separated from family and missing important family events, was common among FIFO workers.
    FIFO workers on day shifts reported better mental health and well-being, whereas night shift work led to worse mental health outcomes across most measures​

Recognising and addressing these health challenges is crucial for the well-being of FIFO workers. It’s also important for employers to understand these unique challenges to implement effective health and safety measures.

Understanding Work Injury Claims for FIFO Workers

For FIFO workers, understanding when and how to make a work injury claim is essential. Given the unique nature of their work, there are specific considerations to keep in mind.

When Can FIFO Workers Make a Claim?

Injuries On-Site:

FIFO workers can make a claim for injuries that occur during their work shift, including injuries sustained while operating machinery, during manual labour, or as a result of workplace hazards.

Injuries During Work-Related Travel:

Claims can also be made for injuries that occur during travel arranged by the employer, such as flights to and from the work site or transport between the accommodation and the work site.

equipment and miner in fluorescent equipment in a mine

Scenarios Where a Claim May Not Be Possible

Off-Duty Periods:

Injuries that occur because of leisure activities not organised by the employer might not be eligible for work injury claims.

Personal Deviations During Travel:

If a FIFO worker deviates from their work-related travel for personal reasons and sustains an injury, this may not be covered under work injury claims.

Importance of Documentation and Timely Reporting

FIFO workers should report any injury to their employer as soon as possible. Delay in reporting can complicate the claims process.

Keeping detailed records of the incident, including the time, place, and circumstances of the injury, is crucial. This documentation should include medical reports, witness statements (if any), and any communication with the employer about the injury.

It’s also important for FIFO workers to be aware of their employer’s specific procedures for reporting and handling workplace injuries.

By understanding these aspects, FIFO workers can ensure that they are adequately prepared to make a work injury claim if the need arises. Being proactive about safety, aware of their rights, and diligent in reporting and documentation are key steps in this process.

Workplace Injury Claims Process for FIFO Workers

The process for FIFO workers to make a work injury claim generally follows similar steps as for other employees, but with some considerations specific to the FIFO context.

General Process of Making a Work Injury Claim

Report the Injury: The first step is to report the injury to the employer or supervisor immediately. For FIFO workers, this might involve reporting at the site or to a designated safety officer.

  • Seek Medical Attention: Get medical treatment as soon as possible. The medical report will form a crucial part of the claim, detailing the extent and nature of the injury.
  • Complete a Claim Form or call WorkCover: The injured worker will need to fill out a workers’ compensation claim form. This form should detail the injury, how it occurred, and any other relevant information. If you’d prefer, you can call WorkCover Queensland to start your claim over the phone.
  • Submission of the Claim: The completed claim form, along with any medical reports and other supporting documents, should be submitted to the employer or directly to the workers’ compensation insurer.

Differences in the Claims Process

Accessing medical treatment and completing paperwork might take longer due to the remote locations of FIFO work, which could impact the claims process timeline. Many FIFO employers will try to insist that you see their doctor, which might be suitable while you are onsite. However, as soon as you get home you should see your own doctor, and seek ongoing treatment from your own doctor. Apart from that, there is little difference between the claims process for a FIFO worker versus other kinds of employment.

What role do employers and insurance companies play in a FIFO worker’s claim?

Employer’s Role:

The employer must facilitate the claim process by providing the necessary forms and guidance. They also need to report the injury to their workers’ compensation insurance provider.

Insurance Company’s Role:

The insurer will assess the claim, which may include reviewing medical reports and possibly conducting an independent medical examination. They will then make a decision on the claim, including the extent of any compensation.

Legal Considerations and Support

For FIFO workers navigating the work injury claims process, being aware of legal aspects is crucial. Understanding these can make a significant difference in the outcome of a claim.

FIFO workers should be familiar with the details of their employment contracts, especially clauses related to work conditions and injury compensation. Laws and regulations governing work injuries can vary between states and territories. FIFO workers, often working across different regions, should be aware of these variations.

There are also strict time limits for filing injury claims. You must make a statutory workers compensation claim within 6 months and a common law claim within 3 years. FIFO workers need to be aware of these deadlines to ensure their claims are filed in a timely manner. Injuries during employer-arranged travel may involve multiple parties (like airlines or transport companies), adding complexity to the claim.

How Legal Support Can Make a Difference

A lawyer with expertise in workplace injuries can provide FIFO workers with clear guidance on their rights and obligations, helping them understand the nuances of their specific situation.

They can also help ensure that all necessary documentation is accurately completed and submitted within required timeframes.

If there are disputes in the claim process, such as claim rejections or disagreements on compensation amounts, having legal representation can be invaluable. Lawyers can also negotiate with insurers on behalf of FIFO workers, ensuring that their rights are upheld and fair compensation is achieved.

Legal support can be a critical resource for FIFO workers making injury claims. It provides them with the necessary knowledge and representation to navigate the complex legal landscape of workplace injuries, especially when dealing with unique situations inherent to FIFO work.

Are you a FIFO worker and unsure if you’ve got a claim?

Navigating the world of work injury claims as a FIFO worker can be a complex and challenging journey. Understanding your rights, the specific legal aspects, and the claims process are essential steps in ensuring you’re protected and adequately compensated in case of a workplace injury. The unique nature of FIFO work, with its specific health challenges and distinct working conditions, calls for specialised attention and expertise.

At Best Injury Lawyers, we understand the intricacies of FIFO workplace injuries and the impact they can have on your life and well-being. Our team of experienced lawyers is dedicated to providing the support and guidance you need to navigate these challenges. We’re here to help you understand your options, file a claim, and advocate on your behalf for the compensation you deserve.

If you’re a FIFO worker who has experienced a workplace injury, or if you simply want to understand more about your rights and the claims process, we’re here for you. Start your No-Win No-Fee claim with us today. Let Best Injury Lawyers be your partner in this crucial process, ensuring your rights are protected and your voice is heard.