Still waiting on FIFO suicide answers

Peter Miller has spoken out about his son's death.
Peter Miller has spoken out about his son's death.

Mr Connor (25), a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) concreter and carpenter, took his life at the Hope Downs mine site in the Pilbara on July 25 last year.

Mr and Mrs Miller have secured a meeting with the chief executive of a leading mining company on September 6 to outline concerns they have regarding the way their son’s death was handled and the way mental health issues are dealt with at mining sites.

Rhys Connor suffered from a short depressive episode.

He attended a community mental health unit and was advised by a counsellor that he was all right to go back to work. He was told to seek workplace counselling services if he felt the need.

Mr Connor went back to work, but a few days later he took his life.

His body was removed from the mining site and transported back to a Perth morgue.

Mr and Mrs Miller were not notified of his death until 12 hours after his body was discovered on site.

They were not contacted by the mine’s management with any offers of condolence, until recent media exposure, Mr Miller said.

‘We still to this day do not know what procedures were in place in the event an incident of this nature occurred – if procedures were followed or if breaches occurred,’ he said.

He said they were ‘still in the dark’ about his son’s death.

Since Mr Miller lost his son, he has spoken out about the need for greater support for people experiencing mental health issues ” especially FIFO workers ” and the need for greater transparency in the mining industry.

As a former FIFO worker himself, both in a corporate role and employee on the ground, Mr Miller said too many things at mining sites went under the radar.

‘The main emphasis pushed on these sites is safety,’ he said.

‘Businesses – industry in general – do not want lost time injuries to blot their safety ratings, for fear of losing their credibility to maintain a safe workplace as required by law.’

Mr Miller believes that businesses may be using their own discretion in their definitions of what a lost time injury is.

‘For instance, if an injured person is doing paperwork, while injured he is still deemed to be working.’

‘This is why company programs installed on mining sites, are generally not working. There is no trust.

‘People are too scared to open up about problems for fear that a possible short term depression issue will result in a permanent loss of being able to continue in the industry.’

Mr Miller said he had witnessed bullying while working at mining sites, which he documented and reported, yet nothing was done.

He believes mental health issues are also hidden.

‘Obtaining statistics on suicides, suicide attempts and mental health issues from FIFO corporates is not easy or if at all possible.

‘We hardly hear about them, they are not discussed on sites,’ he said.

See also: Inquiry into FIFO suicicdes to go ahead