A mineworker has tested positive to COVID-19 virus at a Queensland mine.
The confirmed COVID-19 case is a mineworker at the BMA Blackwater operation. It is believed that staff are currently being informed of the case details and measures to be implemented to isolate potential sources of transmission.
AMSJ has contacted BMA for a statement this morning. A BMA spokesperson told AMSJ, “last night we were informed that a worker at BMA’s Blackwater Mine has tested positive for COVID-19.”
UPDATED 12:20 pm STATEMENT FROM BMA “The individual has not been on site since 1 April 2020, having used the BHP COVID-19 screening tool to self-assess their fitness to return to work. This is an encouraging example of our controls working to help reduce the risks of COVID-19 at our sites and in the communities in which we operate.”
“The individual is currently receiving appropriate health care and support at his home located in the Rockhampton region and will receive a high level of support from BMA during this time.”
“Overnight and this morning, we made contact with people who may have had interactions with this worker – those identified have been isolated as a precaution in line with health authority guidelines.”
“All workers currently on shift were also temperature tested by our paramedic overnight and no abnormal temperatures were returned.”
“In line with our commitment to health and safety as our first priority, we will continue to work with local public health authorities and to reinforce strict social distancing, hygiene and cleaning practices to help Blackwater Mine remain a healthy and safe place to work” the BMA spokesperson said.
We understand that the BMA OS Maintenance worker was not on site when the symptoms presented. An email sent to BMA staff said that the Rockhampton based mineworker was off shift since 1 April 2020 and reportedly developed symptoms and presented for testing in Rockhampton. The worker is reportedly recovering at his home.
The latest COVID-19 case has come after BMA said this week that it had implemented significant protocols for mitigating risks of outbreaks at mining camps and regional communities including the establishment of an Emergency Management Team across its coal assets, temperature screening of all personnel, use of charter flights and more importantly standing down of all high-risk personnel including employees over 65, and over 50 for indigenous people or any person with a chronic disease and those who are pregnant.
This week AMSJ spoke with Asset President James Palmer who said that the company believed that operations were ‘safe.’ He said a strategic plan had been prepared for the management of outbreaks and risk reduction across its’ operations.
Mr Palmer said BHP was allocating $50M in grants to support communities through the COVID19 epidemic and had allocated $6 Million to support labour-hire companies and their employees and that the company will also consider testing of all personnel when tests kits are available.
Phased approach to management of COVID-19
BMA has told staff that it will apply a phased approach to the management of COVID-19. The Phases relate to a range if responses to COVID-19. BMA Coal Assets are currently in the second phase of their approach which predominantly involved social distancing and remote working practices but some of BHP’s global assets have moved to phase three which included maintenance of critical systems, processes and infrastructure.
In late March a supplier at the BMA Daunia operation also tested positive to COVID-19 however had limited contact with personnel on the mine site. The individual only visited the site and did not stay in a mining camp. All personnel who contacted that individual were identified and isolated. Some were required to undertake COVID-19 testing however no details regarding transmissions have been released.
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CFMEU asks the tough questions
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth said the workforce had received minimal information about the matter including potential exposure and how tracing would take place.
“BHP says that the risk of becoming infected in the workplace remains low – but if workers are not given all the information it’s difficult for them to have confidence that they are being kept safe,” said Mr Smyth.
“In this case, there are multiple points of potential cross-contamination including machinery, transport, mess facilities and camp accommodation.
“Workers across the whole operation need reassurance that all of these risks have been identified, that they are being managed and that all potential exposure will be appropriately tracked.
“Mineworkers are continuing to go to work in good faith through this pandemic to keep the industry going.
“They are in the hands of their employers to keep them safe and the very least they deserve is full transparency about confirmed cases and how they are being managed.”
The Union has sought from BHP a full explanation of the protocols it has in place to manage confirmed cases of COVID-19 at its operations.
Mr Smyth said the Union’s thoughts were with the affected worker, who is part of the Operations Services maintenance team at Blackwater.
“We are thinking of this worker and his family at this difficult time and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
The latest case follows another where a Rio Tinto worker confirmed positive after returning from Rio Tinto’s Weipa Operation. Rio Tinto said that health authorities confirmed the worker was not infectious at the time of the visit.
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