BHP defers decision on high-risk workers after new cases
MINING giant BHP has deferred a decision on allowing high-risk workers back on-site following a cluster of new COVID-19 cases in southeast Queensland.
All BHP employees over age 65, over age 50 for indigenous people, anyone with a chronic disease and those who are pregnant were ordered to work from home or take paid leave since April because of the coronavirus crisis.
A BHP spokesman said the company was forced to hold off a decision about its work from home plan after a spike in new cases last week.
"Recently we had been evaluating the pathway to de-escalate controls to enable higher risk individuals to return; however in line with advice from our own medical professionals about the new cases that assessment has been deferred temporarily," he said.
But some high-risk workers have used the downtime to their advantage by upskilling.
With 36 years of industry experience under his hard hat, BMC Poitrel mine production operator Tom Atto is ready to take the next step in his career.
The proud indigenous man and Moranbah local will soon complete his open cut examiner qualification.
Mr Atto was identified as someone who would be at greater risk of serious illness if he contracted COVID-19.
To ensure his health and safety, he has spent the past five months away from the 'coal face' - but not entirely.
Mr Atto said he was thankful his bosses encouraged him to take on the challenge.
"My manager and superintendent asked if I was interested in completing my OCE, and at first I wasn't," he said.
"But they continued to 'poke the bear' and after some reflection I thought bloody oath - I need the challenge."
The statutory qualification will allow Mr Atto to take on added responsibility, ensuring the health and safety of his teammates in and around mining activities.
He hopes the new accountability will allow him to pass on the knowledge acquired over his career and mentor the next generation.
"It's not about one person on a digger, the whole team needs to come together to make sure we're on our game, that we do it right, and we look out for each other," Mr Atto said.
With only the practical side left to complete, he is excited to return to site and finalise his OCE certification as soon as it is safe to do so."