Additional steps in place to safeguard workforce at Muswellbrook's Mt Arthur Coal

BHP is taking the next step to implement further measures to reduce coronavirus (COVID-19) risks to its workforce, including those at Muswellbrook's Mt Arthur Coal, and the local community.

The mining company continues to apply a wide range of stringent procedures across its operated assets to keep its operations up and running during the current pandemic.

"Our first priority is the health and safety of our people, their families and their local communities," BHP's Group HSE officer Rob Telford said.

"The safe continuation of BHP's operations is, in turn, critical for jobs and the economies in the many areas and countries where we operate.

"The nature of mining and petroleum operations is such that many of our people don't have the opportunity to work from home.

"But, with the controls we're implementing we are confident that our workplaces are safe.

"As a minimum, the controls we have in place follow guidelines from relevant governments, world experts and health authorities, BHP's continuous risk assessments, and specialist health advice."

The same rigid measures are in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 at Mt Arthur Coal, too.

"It doesn't matter where the employee is from - Muswellbrook, Scone or Cessnock; they all go through identical protocols," a BHP spokesperson said.

"We are working closely with Greyhound to ensure a strict cleaning regime is maintained on board bus services.

"The buses are cleaned after every use and hand sanitiser is available for all passengers.

"The maximum occupancy for all Greyhound services is 50 per cent, with staggered seating to accommodate physical distancing.

"With regards to accommodation, motels must adhere to the new government restrictions to operate.

"Gyms are closed and food is delivered as takeaway only.

"There is a strict cleaning schedule for rooms; while select rooms are designated for isolation if workers present with flu-like symptoms.

"We will continue to work with government and our health authorities to ensure we embed strong measures at Mt Arthur Coal to minimise the risk of contraction of COVID-19 to all individuals."

Meanwhile, Mr Telford said the company would also monitor expert advice on a daily basis to gain further insights and enhance its approach.

"We are working to implement additional controls at our operated sites and offices in real time against a fast moving backdrop," he explained.

"We're also working hard to make sure we have the necessary supplies and equipment to maintain safe and healthy working areas for our people.

"We are conducting regular audits to understand the effectiveness of the controls, obtain feedback and determine additional measures or improvements that are required.

"We will continue to do this for the duration."

Summary of measures and controls being implemented

Measures and controls are being applied at BHP locations based on local requirements.

BHP will continue to evolve its approach in real time and in line with expert advice.

Social distancing

Social distancing, or physical distancing, requirements are in place at all BHP locations and stipulate individuals should remain an appropriate distance apart as per health and safety guidelines. This applies to sites, camps and offices, and is being worked through for transport. Social distancing is being reinforced daily. Traditional greetings such as handshakes are no longer used.

Gatherings of people are limited as much as possible and conducted in line with social distancing requirements, for example pre-start meetings at operational sites.

Hygiene

Increased cleaning at all sites and offices, plus regular testing of workplace cleanliness and hygiene standards.

Clear and regular communication about the strict hygiene protocols in place at all operational sites and offices. This includes hand washing, sanitation, food and drinks.

Travel

BHP has banned international business travel globally.

Protocols such as flexible rostering have been introduced to support workforce requirements.

Numbers of people on planes, buses and in vehicles are reduced to meet social distancing recommendations. For example, not seating people next to each other and formations that extend the distance between people.

Temperature checks and three-question surveys before boarding BHP operated planes and buses, to assess individuals' health.

Vehicles cleaned and sanitised between trips.

Where state or national borders have closed

Flexible shift and rostering arrangements are in place to accommodate self-isolation and work requirements, and to help manage workflow over an expected period of prolonged border restrictions.

Working with people to relocate for periods of time to comply with cross-border restrictions or quarantine requirements. For example, some tug boat pilots who normally reside in Tasmania have relocated with their families to Western Australia.

Operational sites

BHP has reduced the number of people at mine sites and other operational facilities to business critical employees and contractors only.

All non-essential visits and meetings at operational sites are being rescheduled, cancelled or undertaken via virtual platforms.

Heavy equipment, trucks and light vehicles have increased personal hygiene protocols, and are equipped with appropriate cleaning agents.

Cleaning protocols on site have increased on handrails, walkways, meeting rooms and crib rooms. This includes deep cleaning where possible.

Pre-start and other essential meetings are conducted outside where possible, and in line with social distance requirements.

For any meetings held inside, room capacity has been reduced and seating and floor marks have been added to reinforce appropriate social distancing.

Daily messages from leaders with the latest advice from relevant authorities and BHP leadership on operating in line with health protocols.

This includes:

  • Practice good hygiene, wash hands with soap, more regularly and avoid touching the face.
  • Use santisers, gloves and other protective gear where advised.
  • Wipe down equipment with disinfectant.
  • Leader messages reinforced with regular reminders and with health advice from team leaders, flyers, notices, FAQs and other materials in workspaces and in crib rooms.

Accommodation camps

Dining hall opening times have been extended to reduce the number of people dining at any one time. Seating has been arranged to maintain appropriate social distancing.

Take-away and pre-packaged food options have been increased, along with pre-packaged condiments and utensils.

The use of gloves is now required in some common areas.

Increased cleaning of camp accommodation.

Some camp facilities have been closed (barbecue areas and gyms) while other communal areas have been adapted to adhere to social distancing requirements.

In offices

In-person meetings with external stakeholders postponed, cancelled or conducted through technology.

BHP has implemented roster systems to support office-based roles that are essential to business continuity, for example remote operating centres. People are encouraged to work from home wherever possible.

All office equipment, handrails, desks are cleaned more frequently and deep cleans are conducted regularly, including between weekly change-overs.

Meeting room capacity has been reduced and seating and appropriate controls in place to appropriate social distancing.

All offices have increased personal hygiene protocols and hand sanitiser stations.

Offices remain closed in locations where authorities have mandated that employees work remotely. Technology systems are currently working well to support this.

Monitoring and managing wellness

Emphasising personal responsibility to inform and self-isolate immediately if suddenly feeling unwell.

Dedicated areas at each site for urgent isolation and medical attention if required.

BHP recognises there are higher risk demographics, for example due to medical conditions or age. Where required, we are putting extra controls in place appropriate with individual risk profiles.

BHP made the decision last week to postpone all face-to-face engagements with Traditional Owner groups until further notice to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure to indigenous communities.

Resources to support mental health and resilience, including if working from home.

At any time, employees, contractors and their families can access BHP's Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

In the community

Established a $50 million (AUD) Vital Resources Fund to help regional Australian communities in BHP's areas of operation through support for health and community services, mental health and resilience, indigenous communities and job seekers.

Accelerated payments to small, local and Indigenous suppliers in Australia to deliver $100 million (AUD) more quickly to those businesses. In addition, small business payment terms have been reduced to seven days (from 30 days).

BHP has created a $6 million fund to support labour hire companies and employees. The fund will be used for one-off payments for people quarantined after entering Australia and pay for those not entitled to sick leave but affected by COVID-19.

BHP will hire an additional 1500 people to support its workforce operating across Australia. The roles will be offered as six-month contracts to cover a range of skills.

Using BHP supply chain to supply food supplies to childcare centres, school canteens and not for profit organisations.

Supporting local Aboriginal organisations and services to assist people to return to remote communities. BHP will continue to work with those communities and government to ensure people have what they need to stay in communities.