Food Choices at the Mess Hall

(5 votes)

There are many challenges in the mining industry associated with the health and wellness of workers, particularly within fly in fly out (FIFO) mining camps.

The accommodation services include supplied meals for all miners who work long shifts of around 12 hours per day. When workers finish for the day they make their way to the mess hall which has endless food and drink laid out for the taking.

David Nilson, Health and Safety consultant for Rio Tinto says the most common barrier to a healthy lifestyle including exercise and healthy eating is a lack of time. Long shifts leave tired workers little time for exercise after work. Nilson says another common issue is the lure of alcohol and endless food.

The mess hall has easy access to prepared food and the wet mess hall offers alcoholic drinks at discounted prices. Nilson says due to the nature of the way the mess halls are run, it’s no surprise that 75 percent of workers are considered overweight or obese.
With all this food and drink on offer, outsiders often wonder whether a healthy diet is encouraged or enforced. What is the quality of the food served each day?

At Rio Tinto’s Kangaroo Hill camp in WA’s Pilbara region, head chef Bruce Richards says mine camp food is healthier than ever before and there’s much more variety including international cuisines.

Richards believes the food he serves up is of restaurant quality. “It’s very much like hotel food: it’s evolved over the last 25 years,” he says.

He admits that camp food was previously lackluster, but says “Certainly the emphasis has stepped up within the last five or six years, so we are improving the healthiness of the food.”

Healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand. Nilson says, “There is always room for improvement, however I think mining companies are identifying these opportunities more efficiently now. Companies are readily implementing changes to try to minimise and reverse health issues in mining.”

Luckily in mining and most industries across the board, the importance of health is now better understood as being connected with safety and productivity.
Several mine sites have on-site nutritionists and physiologists to encourage healthy lifestyles. These professionals often label which foods are better than others, and organise games each night to promote physical exercise. What used to be small gyms on site has evolved into many more fitness options such as tennis courts, cricket pitches, swimming pools and boxing areas.

Better understanding of how better health affects productivity has prompted improvements in both services and facilities on mine sites. Many sites back proactive health services and screens on site. Some examples include flu vaccinations, smoking talks and consultations, skin cancer screening, prostate screening, dietician clinics, fun runs and health challenges on site.

As adults, the workers most likely aren’t lectured about eating well and exercising, yet mine sites are doing what they can to lay the foundations for healthy living.

Nilson believes further education is the best tool to combat unhealthy food choices. As unhealthy food choices will always exist, it involves a shift in peoples mentality to realise they’re doing themselves no favours.

Seeking further information on the foods they eat and ensuring a minimum of 30 minutes exercise each day lays in the hands of the workers themselves. Nutrition labels give information to those who take the time to read them. Workers can ask the chef or nutritionist which meal is the healthiest. There are several fitness facilities waiting to be used. FIFO workers need to make informed choices that will impact their health, rather than the quickest, cheapest or tastiest option.


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