COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for WA FIFO, resources sector workers

Friday, 08 October, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for WA FIFO, resources sector workers

Fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers on Western Australian mining and resources sites, and people who work in remote operations or run critical infrastructure including remote train and port control, must have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 1 December 2021 and be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022. This mandate is based on public health advice to protect workers, Aboriginal communities and the wider community, and follows mandates in place for other industries.

Premier Mark McGowan has urged all impacted workers to stay the course, heed the health advice and get the COVID-19 vaccine. “WA has followed the health advice which has kept us safe and protected our family, friends and the WA community. We’ve worked with industry along the way and what is not lost on all of us is that because the resources sector was able to operate during the height of the pandemic, Western Australians have benefited and enjoyed freedoms other places in the country cannot. As a result of the resources sector being able to continue their operations safely this has created dividends for the entire nation,” McGowan said.

The new directions address the risks posed by the movement of workers in the resources sector, to and from regional and remote locations in WA, with many sites and operations located at or near remote Aboriginal communities. The mandate applies to any FIFO worker in WA, in mining, oil and gas and exploration, visitors to these operations, as well as all resources sector employees who work at regional and remote mine sites. It will also include workers at other mission critical operational locations including remote operations. Resources sector workers potentially come into contact with Aboriginal people from remote communities, which means there is a risk that COVID-19 could enter a community from an infected worker. Factors which increase Aboriginal people’s susceptibility to serious disease from COVID-19 include higher rates of other chronic health issues, difficulties in accessible health care and higher levels of mobility.

Health Minister Roger Cook noted that the resources sector has a highly mobile workforce, with a large proportion of FIFO workers. Minister Cook added that if a resources worker became infected with COVID-19 and the virus was then transmitted to one of the state’s remote Aboriginal communities where people are very vulnerable to the illness, the consequences would be disastrous. “We want to avoid that dreadful scenario and ensure all Western Australians are protected. So, my message for resources sector workers is ‘Roll up for WA’ — and do your bit to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community,” Minister Cook said.

From 12:01 am on 1 December 2021, affected workers will need to have had at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to access their workplace. These workers will need to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022. Employers will be responsible for collecting and maintaining records of vaccinated workers, with provisions of exemptions for approved medical reasons. The move to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for resources sector workers follows similar mandates in other industries, including ports, transport, freight and logistics, health care and aged care.

This comes on top of measures the state government has put in place to make it easier for workers to get vaccinated, including pop-up vaccination clinics in Pilbara towns and at Perth Airport. The Perth Airport clinic, operating in partnership with Rio Tinto for FIFOs, will open on 11 October, to provide added convenience for people who can easily access the COVID-19 vaccine on their way to and from work.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston stressed that under these new directions, those who have not received their COVID-19 vaccine will need to do so now, to be allowed to attend or work in rural or remote mine sites and operations. Under the new directions, individuals that choose not to will have to work in another area of the organisation or seek other employment. “This is about workers protecting themselves, their colleagues and their workplaces and communities they operate in. As an industry in WA, we pride ourselves on a range of factors including the health and safety of our workforce, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the next obvious critical element,” Minister Johnston said.

As well as resources sector workers, all eligible Western Australians are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible. State-run vaccination clinics are available in more than 100 locations across WA, including walk-in opportunities across regional towns, with sites listed on the HealthyWA websites. Everyone aged over 12 years is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. To register and book your vaccine appointment, click here.

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