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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

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Western Australia

‘Don’t go commando’ and other tips for nailing your medical

June 22, 2021

Dr Jennifer Cullen has performed mineworkers’ medicals for years and seen the same questions and issues come up over and again.

Her new book ‘FIFO FIT’ is a guide for resource industry workers to reduce stress and time-wasting for workers going through the process – and help them pass first time.

While Dr Cullen’s experience is with FIFO workers in the WA industry, the advice is relevant to workers across the resources industry. There are some differences in requirements between state jurisdictions, different roles and for remote locations – but the general principles and requirements around medical fitness are fairly consistent. In remote locations with heavy machinery and large vehicles, the aim is to keep you safe and to keep others safe from you.
Here are some of her tips, with more detail in the e-book you can purchase here:

1. Expect to be asked for ‘more information’ and bring it with you

A great source of frustration for workers is being asked to supply more information, requiring further follow-up appointments. Job applicants can become distressed at the delay and fear of their employment being compromised.

Dr Cullen recommends saving time and stress by pre-emptively gathering as much information as possible in advance and bringing it to the medical, regarding current medical conditions or recent injuries.

If you are being treated for anything, bring recent test results and a letter from your specialist or GP outlining the condition, medication you are taking and how you are managing it. That could include diabetes, ADHD, heart conditions, sleep apnoea or depression.

If any issue has been raised in a previous medical, expect it to be raised again and bring relevant information with you.

If you know your blood pressure tends to be high when you’re nervous – ‘white coat syndrome’ – bring a letter from your doctor about your usual blood pressure readings.

Fifo Fit by Dr Jennifer Cullen


2. If in doubt, disclose

“Is it relevant?’ is a question many workers grapple with when it comes to employer medical examinations.

Sometimes people worry that revealing medical conditions, mental health issues or past injuries may jeopardise their prospects.

But Dr Cullen says that not disclosing a medical condition can have greater consequences: “If you don’t declare and later have problems the company can look back and hold it against you.”

Ascertaining relevance should be left to the doctor conducting the examination, as they are familiar with the potential implications of a medical condition at work.

And a hot tip: the idea that you don’t have to disclose a condition or injury if it’s more than 10 years old is a myth.

You don’t have to tell the doctor about every time you had a minor sprain, or cuts (even with stitches), or coughs and colds.

But you should definitely tell them about any broken bones, dislocations or injuries where you had to either have surgery, wear a cast or use crutches.

Also, if you’ve had illnesses that you had to have medical treatment for – like antibiotics or other prescription medication, or a stay in hospital – you should include them in the questionnaire.

Dr Cullen says there are many, many people working in the resources industry with past or current medical conditions, which can be managed safely when there’s a plan in place.

3. Don’t go commando!

Depending on the role, medical examinations include a range of physical assessments including vital signs, vision, breathing, hearing, urine test and fitness and heavy lifting.

Your aerobic fitness may be tested by monitoring your heart rate while exercising.

And you’ll have a general medical examination, with a doctor generally checking joints, heart and lungs, abdomen, groin, balance, eyes, ears, mouth and throat.

Bring your glasses and hearing aids if you use them, dress comfortably in clothes you can exercise in, with undies. Your medical examination is not the day to go commando!

You have the right to ask for further details about any physical assessment, ask if there’s an alternative or refuse any part of the assessment you don’t feel comfortable with.

There’s more detail about all aspects of the medical examination process in FIFO FIT, along with checklists on how to prepare. You can purchase the e-book for $19.90 here:

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