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Fortescue Metals Group COVID-19 testing

FIFO Workers

Western Australian health authorities say they have not approved mandatory coronavirus self-testing for Fortescue Metals Group fly-in, fly-out workers.

All FIFO staff and contractors are required to self-administer throat and nasal swab tests as part of the iron ore miner’s return to normal rosters.

FMG insists its regime has been approved by all necessary authorities as part of the state government’s DETECT program for testing asymptomatic people, and its primary focus is on the health and safety of all employees.

But WA’s department of health says the enforcement of compulsory testing goes beyond the research protocol and is not approved by the chief health officer.

“The WA Health CHO has not been formally approached and has therefore not made any specific recommendations in relation to the proposed regime,” a spokesperson said.

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“The Department of Health generally recommends that PCR testing for COVID-19 is conducted by health personnel, to ensure the safety, accuracy and integrity of the test, and does not endorse a self-testing regime without specific safeguards being in place, including health supervision of the test.”

WA Health would continue to work closely with FMG and other miners to provide additional screening measures for FIFO workers, the spokesperson added.

In a contrary statement, the Andrew Forrest-chaired Fortescue said its testing had been approved under the state government’s DETECT program.

“The self-swab testing was implemented in consultation with Fortescue’s pathology provider Clinipath and allows team members to administer the test prior to returning to site, with results assessed by an approved laboratory,” the company said.

“Public Health (Department of Health WA) have approved the use of self-collection for COVID-19 testing and advised this should be undertaken as per the Public Health Laboratory Network Guidelines.”

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AMSJ April 2022