20 August 2020 | QRC COVID-19 Working Group meeting

QRC COVID-19 Working Group spoke about the following:

  • QRC reports a relatively stable week, in terms of changes to COVID regulations. Speculation that there will be no changes to the border closure until after the Queensland State election.
  • QRC reports that there may be a medical exemption for the border closure.
  • In relation to specialist exemptions:
    • There have been 110 applications lodged,
    • A number of those have been made by contractors, whereas it is the company engaging the contractors that must make the application.
    • 24 applications have been progressed; 10 are currently being considered
    • There have been 4 specialist worker approvals for 5 people in the coal, minerals and quarrying sectors.
    • There is an expectation that there will be further exemptions for specialist oil and gas workers.
  • QRC reports no pressure from companies to broaden the current exemption categories.
    • QRC did not support the MCA move to broaden the exemption on the basis of low merits of success, and the potential risk to public perception or alarm in the broader community.
  • Workers who are being given exemptions are working under strict guidelines approved by the Qld CHO. Part of the considerations going forward is a process of ‘quarantine at work’. This is an opportunity for the sector to identify how supervised quarantine operates on site, as opposed to in hotels (which are, in any case, at capacity).
    • QRC seeks advice from companies as to how workers can undergo quarantine at work.
      • g. on a drilling rig: that rig might be manned exclusively by those under quarantine, and isolated from all others.
    • This must be handled sensitively and strictly to avoid alarming the broader community.
  • QRC advises that businesses in the service sector (METS) are struggling. QRC requests that members advise QRC of service sector companies who cannot access specialist worker exemptions and are struggling financially.
  • There is no appetite in the Queensland government to allow FIFO workers to travel to workplaces interstate without quarantining upon return.
  • In relation to the BAC airport testing facility:
    • The facility is now up and working.
    • QRC requests companies to keep track of workers going through.
    • QRC asked the Chief Health Officer to re-state her view on temperature testing:
      • CHO advises that temperature testing on departing aircraft is useful, but not essential.
      • There are examples where the infra-red testing has been shown to be unreliable and creates a false sense of security.
      • Anecdotal evidence that people in the general public are using paracetamol and ibuprofen to provide lower temperature results.
    • QRC reiterates the need for the sector to remain vigilant, maintain social distance and wash hands regularly. People are most contageous the day before they present first symptoms.
    • Reporting on QRC’s meeting with the Premier:
      • The Industry has not been recognised for its role in maintaining employment, the economy and royalties payments. With the exception of Cameron Dick, no other minister has spoken about the resources community in a positive way.
      • QRC will launch a media campaign to advertise the sector’s contribution to the Queensland economy and to recovery.
      • QRC sought royalty stability, regulatory streamlining & reform and reduction in red and green tape.
      • Overall, the meeting was positive. The Premier may invite some QRC board members to dinner to discuss issues facing the recourses sector.
    • QRC reports its ongoing work to advocate for specialist worker exemptions and other COVID-related issues.

<Mayors and DNRME join the call>

  • Kelly Vea Vea asked about the number of exemptions.
    • QRC reports 5 approvals have been granted.
    • DNRME confirms that 5 have been approved. A further 6 have been recommended by DNRME for approval, and are now being considered by the CHO. Generally, the number of applications has been very small, reflecting the seriousness with which the resources sector is taking this issue.
    • A further 20 new applications are currently under consideration by DNRME.
    • Many applications by contractors and individuals, and these are invalid: the employing/contracting company must lodge the application.
  • Warwick Squire (DNRME) provided an overview of the specialist worker exemptions under the new Directive # 11.
    • Specialist resource sector workers are one of the categories under the exemption.
    • This category is much narrower than previous exemptions.
    • The CHO has advised that this will be a much more stringent process, subsequently, fewer applications will be approved.
    • DNRME has published guidelines to assist companies by providing clear criteria for exemptions for specialist resource sector workers.
      • Workers must be physically present, and critical to production. I.e. production would shut down or safety jeopardised, were it not for this worker
    • Public health grounds are also being considered, with a particular focus on quarantine requirements.
      • It will be incumbent on companies to demonstrate a quarantine management plan to demonstrate how workers will be able to quarantine on site, e.g. wearing a mask, self-isolating when not working, not mixing with other workers. These plans will need to be detailed.
    • Summary: the assessment of applications will have two components. First, the specialist nature of the worker. Second, the quarantine management plan.
  • Tania Kennedy (Kestrel) publicly acknowledged the work of QRC and DNRME’s assistance with having specialist workers brought in from Victoria. Quarantine management measures include:
    • those workers will wear a mask while travelling,
    • be quarantined for 14 days upon arriving,
    • will self-isolate on site,
    • will be separated from other workers,
    • and will undergo physical screening.
  • Question from to Warwick: will preference be given to applications from non-hotspot areas?
    • Answer: Yes.
  • QRC reiterated, for the benefit of local mayors, that QRC did not support MCA’s move to expand the resource worker exemption category and that MCA’s move has subsequently been withdrawn.
    • Kelly Vea Vea thanked QRC for that clarification.