10 January 2022 | Minister Scott Stewart briefing and Close Contacts – Critically Essential Workers

Further to the Department of Resources (DoR) Update circulated to members last night outlining exemptions from quarantine to attend work for Critically Essential Workers, QRC has today had a further discussion with the DoR regarding the final criteria relating to defining a Critically Essential Worker in the resources sector.

Companies should begin drawing up their list of critically essential roles in preparation for the final documentation from the Queensland Government which is expected in the next 24-48 hours.

Members should also be aware that the current shortage of RATs will ease over the next 2 weeks with ample stocks expected to become available, including at supermarkets and pharmacies.

Critically Essential Worker Close Contact Exemption Process

Providing they are double vaxxed and asymptomatic, critically essential workers will be able to continue to work if they are declared a close contact.

However, companies should be aware there is a high risk associated with bringing workers who are close contacts to the worksite. 30-50% of close contacts are becoming positive cases and the more close contacts brought on-site, the higher the risk of widespread workforce infection.

Details are yet to be finalised but broadly speaking the following is what is taking shape:

  • The process will be a self-assessment open to all businesses in the resources sector but it is highly preferred that lists be submitted by the resources company on behalf of itself and its contractors.
  • The company will create a list of critically essential roles (names are not required) and lodge that list, along with the rationale for the roles being critically essential, with the Department of Resources.
  • There is not an approval process and companies can draw from the list immediately after it is submitted. The company would then be required to provide the worker’s name and the protocols and log of his/her movements to DoR within 3 days.
  • The lists will be audited by DoR and if not seen as critically essential, roles will be removed from the company’s exemption list.
  • The company should only apply for absolutely essential roles – like the roles needed to operate on Christmas Day and not back-office or exploration roles. There isn’t a set list of roles that can be applied for – it is at the discretion of the resources company.
  • Where a contractor lodges an exemption and draws workers from that exemption pool, they must advise the resource company before that worker enters a resource site as it is the company that will have to manage the risk if there is a transmission.
  • Companies must ensure they have controls and protocols in place to manage the risk of bringing close contacts onto the site.
  • Transport to and from accommodation/home to the worksite must be by private/company vehicle. The use of planes or buses open to the public is not permitted but charter flights and charter buses are acceptable.
  • Companies should consider requesting their workforce not socialise together in large groups out of work hours. There have already been instances where teams of workers have had a night out together and subsequently all tested positive, significantly impacting on a companies ability to continue to operate sections of their operations.