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The Pro’s and Con’s of FIFO work.
With the draw of high salaries, working in Australia’s mines attracts tens of thousands of workers each year, all eager to earn the big bucks. And with most of the mines in Australia located in remote areas, companies heavily rely on FIFO workers to ensure operations are effectively staffed with both skilled and unskilled workers, 24/7.
But whilst the big salaries are a huge draw, FIFO work is not for everyone. It’s more than a shift pattern, it’s a lifestyle – and a tough one at that. So, what is FIFO work and are you ready to take on the FIFO lifestyle?
Let’s start with the con’s, the challenges, the tough questions you need to be asking before you commit to a FIFO career in Mining?
The long hours. The pay is good but the graft is long and hard. Often cited as the toughest part of the job, the 12+ hour shifts, day-in, day-out, 7 days a week are grueling. These hours leave little downtime to recuperate and refresh and as such, a strong will and focused mind is a must to avoid burn-out.
The conditions. On-site, expect extreme temperatures from searing heat in the day to, often, cold conditions at night. Dust, swarms of flies, plus the harsh terrain become permanent features of everyday life. And off-site, accommodation – known as dongers – are often fairly basic and won’t have that homely touch you’ve left behind.
There's a bunch of other things you'll need to think about when looking around for FIFO jobs.
The shifts. Many mining roles, from electricians, boilermakers to heavy duty fitters and mechanics work around the clock. Meaning you’re often required to work both day and night shifts as part of your swing. Adapting to these routines can be tough going as just as you get into the swing of one shift, it’s all change to a different shift pattern. Not to mention then having to adapt back to ‘normal life’ in your down-time, back home.
The impact on others. Mining provides great financial opportunities. But with that comes sacrifices. FIFO affects not just you, as the one working away from home, but also your family.
Time away from home. Often 2-3 weeks at a time – sometimes more, can leave significant others’ and children feeling alone to deal with the daily stresses of everyday life. It means missing out on birthdays, weddings, school events, parents evening, significant moments of your kids growing up.
And then there’s the highs and lows of coming home and leaving again. It’s tough for all involved and one of the biggest challenges of being a FIFO worker. One that can leave all involved feeling isolated and cut off from each other.
Some points as food for thought as you consider whether a FIFO mining job is something you could do.
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Could it be the best decision you ever made?
Rarely is any decision clear cut. And with con’s, always come pro’s! And there’s some pretty compelling reasons to life as a FIFO worker.
Let’s start with the big one … the salary. As we mentioned, whilst you definitely have to earn it and make some pretty big sacrifices, the financial rewards of FIFO work can be significant. Career development and progression is also a real opportunity. Once you have FIFO mining experience under your belt, you’ll find that you not only become a valued resource but you’ll also have many opportunities to further your career – both locally and internationally.
Due to factors such as general mining resource requirements, market booms, skilled labour shortages, mining companies will search far and wide for the right candidates and is the reason why FIFO work is so popular.
As such, it means you can have your home base pretty much anywhere in Australia. The more ‘in-demand’ you are, the more likely this will be the case. It also means that embracing a FIFO life style can open up job opportunities given you’re effectively able to work wherever the work needs you – and you never need to up-root your family.
The on-site facilities. We mentioned that your accommodation isn’t likely to be luxurious but mining companies are starting to invest much more into the broader facilities available on-site. From gyms, a bar, social activities, pay TV and good internet connections, maybe even a pool – mining life doesn’t have to just be an isolating routine of work, sleep, work, sleep. Communities are built and nurtured on-site, often leading to life-long friendships.
What can you expect?
Time away from family can be stressful and isolating but the mining rosters can actually mean you get to spend extended quality time with your family. Something an average 9-5-er can only dream off.
Take the kids to school and pick them up, sharing family meals, spending quality time with parents and friends. And if you’re able to combine leave with holiday entitlements, it means you can enjoy extended holidays of several weeks at a time to travel with the family and truly get the most from the perks of a FIFO miners’ life.
So, a short snapshot of some of the pro’s and con’s to taking up a FIFO job in the mines. From dozer drivers to diesel fitters to heavy duty mechanics to boilermakers, it can be a highly lucrative path to take, from the financial rewards to the great career opportunities available.
These perks come at a price though. We opened this article saying that FIFO work in the mines was more than just a job, it was a lifestyle. A lifestyle that thousands of hard-working Australians have made a successful career of choice.
The question to answer is whether the sacrifices and stamina required as a FIFO worker are worth the rewards.
For more information on a career in mining or the current job vacancies available at Pit N Portal, visit our mining jobs page