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BHP has considered further coronavirus testing methods for its employees in addition to screening tools that are in place across the sites.
BHP chief executive Mike Henry said the company was participating in an industry-sponsored, government-endorsed trial in Western Australia to test molecular testing for COVID-19 using nose and throat swabs.
“Based on the trial outcomes and expert health advice, that testing method could be introduced at some airports and sites, in consultation with relevant governments,” he said.
The mining giant also ramped up its support for employees and their families across its global portfolio with a range of online campaigns and communication tools.
Henry said these included making a mental health toolkit available to employees in both English and Spanish, in addition to a 24/7 Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers external expert counselling to employees and their families.
BHP is also set to begin voluntary field trials in Chile of a new app developed in-house as an additional safeguard to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
The company intends to use the app at the mining and petroleum operations globally.
In the event that an employee or contractor tests positive to COVID-19, authorised HSE personnel would use that person’s data – with their permission – to identify their movements while at work and quickly isolate, clean and sanitise the areas in which they had been working.
If successful, the app has the potential to be deployed at BHP’s other sites and offices. Henry said the data could also be used to expedite existing contact tracing measures.
The ramped up safety measures come as BHP increased its workforce in Australia by more than a thousand over the past months.
After going on a hiring spree to employ 1500 new staff members to support BHP’s Australian operations through the coronavirus crisis, the company had filled up 1100 of those positions through six-month contracts.
They include out-of-work employees of Virgin, Qantas and Monadelphous.
Henry said BHP would continue to prioritise safety and risk reduction, while basing any decisions related to easing restrictions at sites on targeted assessments of local risks.
“Broadly, we expect to retain reduced numbers at our work locations, split-shifts when possible at our offices, and flexible working from home for some time, to maintain social distancing and protect those at greater risk from COVID-19,” he said.