Rio Tinto Yarwun general manager Mark Gilmore in front of the new health testing facility.
Rio Tinto Yarwun general manager Mark Gilmore in front of the new health testing facility.

Drastic new measures for Rio Tinto sites

AS COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease across Australia, Rio Tinto has launched multi-layered screening for the illness on the country’s east coast, starting at Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.

The measures, which include pinprick blood screening, follow successful trials and the rollout of rapid screening in Western Australia, and add to COVID-19 controls already in place across Rio Tinto operations.

The extra controls will be put in place at Rio Tinto Aluminium’s three Gladstone sites – Yarwun alumina refinery, Queensland Alumina Limited and Boyne Smelters Limited – with the potential to extend to other operations.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations managing director Kellie Parker said their top priority was the health and wellbeing of employees, contractors and communities.

“That’s why we are rolling out additional screening controls on the east coast, as a way of preventing and helping identify any increase in infections, particularly as restrictions ease,” she said.

“Rapid screening has proven to be an effective tool, enabling the quick identification of people arriving and entering sites who may be at increased risk of having a viral illness. “These measures will help us continue operating safely and, importantly, continue making a strong contribution to our communities.”

Yarwun hygiene adviser Robyn Harn gets pinpricked as part of new health testing by Rio Tinto.
Yarwun hygiene adviser Robyn Harn gets pinpricked as part of new health testing by Rio Tinto.

The multi-layered screening is made up of an online questionnaire, a body-temperature check onsite and a 15-minute pinprick blood screen for viral antibodies.

More than 25,000 Rio Tinto employees and contractors have been through the rapid COVID-19 screening process since its introduction at Perth Airport in April for fly-in, fly-out workers. It has since been extended to regional airports, residential operational centres and offices in WA.

Yarwun has thermal body screen equipment and a testing clinic to capture all people commencing a roster.

Those who have been outside the Gladstone region in the 14 days prior to a roster start will automatically receive a pinprick blood screen.

The blood screen, conducted by independent occupational healthcare company Sonic HealthPlus, is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19.

However, anybody who receives a non-negative antibody screen result will be referred for a full diagnostic mouth and nasal swab at the onsite clinic, with specimens sent to a local accredited pathology laboratory for analysis.

This multi-layered screening program supports a range of controls Rio Tinto operational sites have in place to minimise the transmission risk of COVID-19, including physical distancing, travel and visitor restrictions, increased cleaning at high touch-point areas, roster adjustments and ensuring non-production employees are working from home when they can.



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