This internet browser is outdated and does not support all features of this site. Please switch or upgrade to a different browser to display this site properly.

Mining Worker Study: Key insights into the state of WA mining’s mental health

Copy Link
Image for Mining Worker Study: Key insights into the state of WA mining’s mental health

• Mining workers report a strong focus on physical safety behaviours
• More than one in three mining workers reported high levels of burnout
• Covert forms of sexual harassment such as sexism and misogyny are high
• Bullying in mining shows signs of improvement, however levels remain significantly higher than other industries with double the number of women affected compared to men

New findings from The Mental Awareness, Respect and Safety (MARS) Program Landmark Study show reports of unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion are decreasing, but being put down or condescended to based on gender, and receiving offensive sexist remarks, remain common themes in Western Australia’s mining sector.

Researchers from the Centre for Transformative Work at Curtin University surveyed more than 2,500 workers and conducted in-depth interviews with 60 individuals to gain insights into their experiences with a focus on three critical areas – creating mentally healthy workplaces, building a culture of safety and respect, and preparing for workplace safety in future mining.

MARS Program Landmark Study Chief Investigator, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Sharon Parker said only four in ten WA mining workers reported feeling satisfied with their job and nearly one in three said they were likely to try to find a new job with another employer in the next 12 months.

“Our research found one in three mining workers experiences emotional exhaustion regularly, indicating high levels of burnout. Disturbingly, covert forms of sexual harassment, including sexism and misogyny, persist,” Professor Parker said.

“The negative impact of these experiences on mental health and well-being is evident, emphasising the urgent need for change through improved work design, leadership and organisational culture.

“With the mining sector constituting 10 per cent of our workforce in WA and playing a pivotal role in our State’s economic prosperity, this study is a crucial step in highlighting the mental health, safety and well-being of workers.”

Lead author Dr Cheryl Yam said while the findings acknowledge workplace culture was improving as companies pay more attention to reducing discrimination and harassment, a collective commitment is needed to achieve meaningful and lasting change in building a respectful workplace culture.

“The mining industry is a leader in physical safety. With the support and resources from the MARS Program, we are confident that the mining industry is well positioned to also be a leader in mental health and well-being,” Dr Yam said.

“Our research findings provide a roadmap for meaningful action to address and reduce covert forms of sexual harassment and create respectful workplaces to attract, retain and prevent harm to women and people in other minority groups.”

Key findings:

  • Most WA mining workers reported high levels of physical safety behaviours such as safety compliance and safety participation.
  • Underreporting of notifiable safety incidents and near misses continue to exist in the industry.
  • 41 per cent of WA mining workers reported feeling satisfied with their jobs and 42 per cent reported feeling a sense of thriving.
  • 30 per cent of mining workers reported high or very high levels of psychological distress, 38 per cent reported feeling burnt out at work, and 31 per cent reported an intent to leave their employer within the next 12 months.
  • 60 per cent of FIFO mining workers reported being satisfied with their accommodation while 73 per cent of male FIFO workers reported feeling physically very safe in their work-provided accommodation compared to 53 per cent of female FIFO workers.
  • 16 per cent of workers reported having experienced bullying (22 per cent reported witnessing bullying) at least 2-3 times per month in the past six months.
  • 41 per cent of female mining workers reported they had experienced being put down or condescended to, while 34 per cent reported receiving offensive sexist remarks (e.g., suggesting that people of your sex are not suited for the kind of work you do).

The Mental Awareness, Respect and Safety (MARS) Program Landmark Study: Insights from the Worker Survey and Interviews report can be found online here.

The release of the findings of the Mining Worker Study follows the launch of the ‘Respect In Mining Toolkit’ developed by Curtin University’s Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health, to help WA mining companies create safer workplaces for women.

The landmark study forms part of the WA State Government’s Mental Awareness, Respect and Safety program, which was launched in December 2021. Advice stemming from the research has been submitted separately and a follow-up study will take place in two years’ time to assess the sector’s progress.

Copy Link