Rio Tinto’s FIFO workers to undergo on-the-spot airport screening

Rio Tinto has introduced rapid screening trials at Perth Airport in a bid to further reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

This is part of its “five-layer screening process”, which identifies those at the airport who are at a higher risk of having a viral illness through a blood sample.

The sample is taken through a finger pinprick before it is analysed for viral-related antibodies in the employee’s blood.

Rio Tinto stated that as a precaution, the test would not be limited to COVID-19, with any viral antibodies detected requiring the individual to self-isolate and receive testing at an approved clinic.

The process also involves a health questionnaire that will be issued to employees prior to travelling; an in-person assessment with a nurse at Perth Airport; and thermal screening to test employees’ temperatures.

An access band will be provided to those who have cleared the screening process, allowing them to board the flight.

Rio Tinto’s stringent methods aim to screen all fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) employees and contractors returning to work at the iron ore operations, as well as essential staff at the company’s operations centre.

“Our number one priority through this period is to protect the health of our employees and communities where we operate,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said.

“We believe the introduction of rapid screening adds another layer of control to help prevent the transmission of the virus in WA.

“We are very confident in the veracity of our screening process which we strongly believe is an important tool to reduce risk for our communities and our people.

“This not only allows us to continue operating safely, which is important for the more than 12,000 people we employ, but it also enables us to continue making a strong contribution to the state’s economy.”

A team of trained medical staff will perform the screening process with additional oversight given by Rio Tinto’s occupational physician.

These measures are part of a broader range of controls including social distancing on planes, buses, camps and vehicles, with limited access to and reduced people on site.