FIFO fears

FLY-in, fly-out workers fear they are not being properly protected from COVID-19, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union claims.
FIFO fears FIFO fears FIFO fears FIFO fears FIFO fears

Moranbah workers social distancing at the airport.

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CFMEU Queensland president Stephen Smyth said mining was essential for jobs and the economy during the COVID-19 crisis.

However, he warned companies needed to lift their health and safety games.

Smyth pointed to FIFO as an example.

"To reduce the risks to workers and communities associated with the widespread use of fly-in workers, we encourage mining companies to look at housing workers locally where possible and appropriate," he said.

"The mining industry must play its part in reducing exposure of workers and community members to COVID-19 and we urge companies to work with local mining communities to find solutions.

"Mining companies need their social license to operate more than ever and they must do the right thing by the communities that host their operations." 

Smyth said there were cases where miners were not properly enforcing social distancing and hygiene.

"Hygiene and social distancing must be strictly enforced at mine sites as well as camps and transport including planes and buses," he said.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing too many cases at the moment where mine operators are just not taking this seriously enough - with workers crammed into vehicles and inadequate sanitation.

"Mining companies must make sure their policies are being strictly adhered to at every site."

The New South Wales Resources Regulator said it too was looking into claims miners were not properly addressing social distancing and hygiene.

It has received several complaints including that workers told to self-isolate were then being directed by supervisors to come to work; that workers were being told that social distancing requirements did not apply at a mine site because mining was considered essential; workers being compelled to travel in groups in personnel transports and vehicles, with no possibility of maintaining social distancing; and less than adequate arrangements for maintaining the prescribed standard of personal hygiene.

However, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane argued that miners were taking their responsibilities to protect workers from COVID-19 seriously.

"We have worked with the industry across the country to develop national protocols to protect our staff, our families, our suppliers, our communities, our state, and our nation," Macfarlane said.

"With the Queensland border now closed, resources workers travelling from interstate will also wear high-viz. 

"Companies will be encouraged to give their staff a letter detailing their work commitments, where they would be staying and how long.'

"For an industry that supported one in every seven jobs in Queensland before the coronavirus, we know the responsibility of keeping those 372,000 workers safe and protecting the safety of all Queenslanders."

Macfarlane said where staff had to travel by car or air transport, companies were committed to additional best practice guidelines including:

  • Separating workers from the general public at airport departure and arrival;
  • Social distancing on transport from airport to mine site and mine camp through the use of mine-owned bus or vehicles or chartered bus; and
  • Separating visiting workers by restricting access from the local community.

Macfarlane said the QRC would also establish a working group of member companies to standardise the additional measures.

Those measures are in addition to a range of new procedures deployed and include:

  • Health questionnaires for visitors and suppliers;
  • Temperature measurement at mine site entries and before flights to mine sites;
  • Improved separation procedures including head office staff working from home;
  • Staggered crib breaks; and
  • No non-essential visitors to mine sites.