OCT • 2021

Managing COVID-19 restrictions NSW in lockdown

A message from Peter Backhouse, Cadia Project Manager

The Cadia mine site is located approximately 4 hours drive west of Sydney. There is no FIFO camp, so non-residential employees are normally accommodated in either Blayney or Orange. The recent lockdown of NSW has caused Cadia to have a major rethink about how they manage their workforce. With a predominantly FIFO / non-residential workforce, flight schedules have been severely reduced due to COVID. The alternative was to carpool workers, for interstate, Sydney based and regional NSW employees, with reimbursed travel costs.

But as more of NSW went into lockdown with harsher social distance rules, and as Queensland and Victoria closed their borders to anyone coming from NSW without a mandatory 14 days quarantine, carpooling was no longer permitted.
This forced those already on site to stay longer. Many of our employees already had to experience this last year as part of the first wave of COVID, so some were reluctant to repeat.

Our next step was to alter rosters to 4 weeks on 4 weeks off, or 6 weeks on 6 weeks off including the 14 days isolation (either in home isolation or hotel quarantine). To make this more bearable and safe, people are given a minimum of 4 days R&R after working 14 days straight to manage fatigue while working these longer stints.

Other measures to minimise contact and increase social distancing included:

  • Asking our office employees (Site Engineers, Site Administrators and Stores Supervisors) to work from home since early July 2021. They are only allowed to site for certain occasions such as in preparation for pay day.
  • Not having face to face handovers between day shift and night shift. In fact, at the end of shift, nightshift are not allowed to come through the site turnstiles until dayshift have all exited (and vice versa). Instead of a face to face handover, each piece of machinery has a handover book that is filled out at the end of shift and left in the muster room for the oncoming shift to read.
  • Extra buses have been put on to ensure social distancing getting to and from work. And residential employees are not allowed to carpool – one person per car.

We have also established isolation protocols at the accommodation facilities in Blayney and if needed, a motel in Orange is available for people returning from Sydney COVID hotspots.

At all pre-start meetings, employees go through their SANO daily injury prevention exercises, and also have the opportunity to discuss the current COVID situation with their Project Manager, Department Managers or via Byrnecut’s Employee Assistance Program (People Sense). Many of our employees have taken up that opportunity to discuss their issues and help with their mental health.

We have also been working with South Australia, Queensland and Victoria’s health departments to assist with personal applications for exemptions to re enter home states.

For the last few Sundays, a BBQ breakfast was provided to all on site employees after the safety meeting. The feedback has been great, and has helped boost the morale. We'll continue to provide this each week for the foreseeable future.

To help employees, we also make sure that every effort is made to get the person home safely, whether that be in to hotel quarantine or home isolation at the end of their 6 weeks roster. Given the COVID situation in NSW, it has not been an easy period for the Byrnecut and Jetcrete employees at Cadia and their families. However, their efforts and sacrifices have been significant and greatly appreciated by Byrnecut, Jetcrete and Newcrest.