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Living the Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) Life

The ABC recently aired an interesting series of programs on the world of the FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) worker. While that series was running Ian Thompson, Narada Ellis and I experienced the real thing with, to use the correct terminology, an eleven day ‘swing’ on Barrow Island, implementing enwis) to manage the collection and disposal of the waste generated by the Gorgon Gas project. The project is a joint-venture between several of the world’s largest energy companies including Chevron, Shell and Mobil.

Just getting to the island is a major exercise. The safety of workers on the island is paramount. Barrow Island is also a Class A nature reserve and stringent quarantine provisions are in place to protect the environment. In order to be allowed on the Island we had to complete various ’short-term worker’ inductions (approx. 15 hours) as well as pass a medical test (2 hours). At any one time, around five-thousand five-hundred people are working on the island. A cruise liner has recently been chartered to provide an additional one-thousand six-hundred beds.

The usual ‘swing’ on Barrow Island (site of the Gorgon Gas plant) is twenty-six days on, nine days off. We had two ‘swings’, one for four days and the other for eleven days. The normal routine is that after eating breakfast and making our lunches in the mess, we meet at the bus stop at 5:25am to transfer to the work site. The first bus back from the work site left at 4:30pm. Our rooms in the Construction Village were simple and functional. Each room has a single bed, desk, television (including some Foxtel channels) and a bathroom with shower, toilet and basin.

There are three “wet” messes where you can meet for a drink and five messes where you eat meals. A maximum of four mid-strength beers per day is strictly enforced. A variety of dishes are available on a self-serve basis. Health and fitness is encouraged. Food is categorised according to its health value. There are fitness boot camps, swimming pools, cricket nets, general purpose fields for soccer and other sports, and bicycles available for loan.

Living on the Island was an interesting experience. It is quite surreal walking to breakfast in your steel cap boots and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at 4 o’clock in the morning with several thousand other people. At the end of my swing I was able to reflect upon the experience and I have a healthy respect for the people who do this month after month.

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