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Mining giant isolates more staff infected by FIFO worker

Yandi mine
Yandi mine

A multinational company continues to segregate team members who caught a highly contagious disease at one mining operation.

BHP confirmed three additional employees recently tested positive to coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Yandi Iron Ore Mine in Newman, 346km south of Port Hedland. A total of five cases have already been linked to the first infected, fly-in fly-out (FIFO) rail contractor.

The employer revealed 21 workers isolating at the mine site, and a further 13 offsite, are all close contacts.

“They were not believed to have been infectious in the workplace or community,” a spokesperson said according to the Australian Associated Press.

“The health and wellbeing of our people, especially those isolating on site, remains critically important. They are under the continued care of our on site medical team.”

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has halved the mandatory quarantine time for those returning a positive result from 14 to just seven days. Close contacts are free to return to work after testing negative to a rapid antigen test (RAT).

The State Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety recently reminded employers to appoint an infectious diseases manager, who checks government COVID-19 updates and verifies which workers are fully vaccinated.

The department also recommends implementing an infectious diseases management plan to reduce the risk of infection. The plan should require staff to wear face masks and social-distance in mess areas.

“The plan should [also] include how operations can safely continue if key personnel (people in statutory positions) undergo periods of isolation – reliance on the potential for an exemption from the chief health officer is not an appropriate continuity response,” state mining engineer Andrew Chaplyn said in an update.

“Sites should also ensure staff cooperate with and follow the directions of Department of Health officials, including contact tracers when required. Resource workers that work in rural and remote locations, remote operations centres and mission critical operational locations are fully vaccinated … [and] systems are in place to restrict access to Aboriginal communities to essential personnel only.”

Employers must report as soon as known, and declare the number of affected workers and actions taken and planned, in any of the following situations:

  • person(s) is on site, has a positive test result (RAT or polymerase chain reaction [PCR]) and may have interacted with other workers, resulting in isolation of some or all of the workforce on site
  • person(s) was on site in the last seven days, has positive test result (RAT or PCR) and may have interacted with other site workers, resulting in isolation of some or all of workforce offsite or on site.

Click here to read the full advice.

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AMSJ April 2022