Rio Tinto ups WA COVID-19 screening

COVID-19 screening measures are being broadened for Rio Tinto’s fly-in, fly-out workers with rapid screening being introduced at Busselton, Geraldton and Albany airports.
Rio Tinto ups WA COVID-19 screening Rio Tinto ups WA COVID-19 screening Rio Tinto ups WA COVID-19 screening Rio Tinto ups WA COVID-19 screening Rio Tinto ups WA COVID-19 screening

Rio Tinto has expanded its COVID-19 rapid screening to Busselton airport and will extend it to Geraldton and Albany airports too.

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The rapid screening has started at Busselton and will be rolled out at Geraldton and Albany in coming weeks.

It will mirror the five-layer rapid COVID-19 process successfully introduced at Perth Airport last month.

That screening led to one Rio Tinto contractor being diagnosed with COVID-19.

About 900 Rio Tinto FIFO employees and contractors are expected to commute from Busselton, Geraldton and Albany to operations in the Pilbara every fortnight.

Those traveling have been asked to arrive at least 30 minutes before their scheduled departure time to allow for the screening process.

Trained medical staff run the COVID-19 screening process, which is overseen by Rio Tinto's occupational physician, who is also overseeing a comprehensive research program into COVID-19 screening outcomes.

The rapid screening process includes an online and face-to-face health questionnaire, a temperature check and the rapid finger pinprick blood screen to detect viral-related antibodies.

The screening is performed by a qualified nurse. Rio Tinto has hired nurses who have been out of work due to restrictions on elective surgery at WA hospital forced by COVID-19. The company says it has created about 100 jobs to handle its screening process at Perth, Busselton, Albany and Geraldton.

The blood sample is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19. It just flags whether the person has antibodies that could indicate the virus and further testing is warranted.

Anyone identified as requiring further testing will not be allowed to depart and will be directed to undertake a diagnostic test for COVID-19 at an approved clinic.

If the blood screen is clear, a coloured wristband is given to confirm the person has been screened and can board their flight.

More than 8000 Rio Tinto FIFO workers and contractors have been through the rapid COVID-19 screening process since its introduction at Perth Airport last month.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the company's number one priority was to protect its employees' health where they operated, which is why it had expanded its screening to regional FIFO hubs.

"The broader roll-out of our layered screening process to other regional airports such as Geraldton and Albany will allow us to continue operating safely and, importantly, making a strong contribution to Western Australian communities," he said.

"Since the introduction at Perth Airport last month, rapid screening has proven to be an effective tool enabling the quick identification of people who may be at increased risk of having a viral illness prior to getting on a plane and arriving at a site in the Pilbara."

Rio Tinto's regional FIFO program services eight sites in Western Australia's Pilbara with more than 2400 employees traveling from eight regional hubs in Western Australia.

According to Rio Tinto the program delivered an economic contribution of $199.4 million to local towns outside of the Pilbara, an increase of almost $15 million on 2016. 

It said the growing regional workforce delivered an increase in spending in regional WA to $547.9 million.


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