New restrictions in Queensland will mean that, from 11.59am on 4 April, anyone entering Queensland from another state or territory, who is not an exempt person, will need to self-quarantine for 14 days. What does this mean for FIFO mine workers?
On 31 March 2020, the Queensland Chief Health Officer issued a Public Health Direction containing further border restrictions to apply from 11.59 pm on Saturday, 4 April 2020 until the end of the declared public health emergency (currently 19 May 2020).
The restrictions will mean that anyone entering Queensland from another state or territory, who is not an exempt person, will need to self-quarantine for 14 days.
In summary, the impact on Queensland resources companies of these new measures are:
- DIDO workers from NSW, SA or NT may continue to enter via land and not have to self-isolate for 14 days after entry.
- FIFO workers will need to self-isolate for 14 days after entry unless they are a Critical Resources Sector Employee. The list of Critical Resources Sector Employees is narrow and generally only includes employees who hold specified statutory roles under resources safety legislation.
Resources companies should ensure that any workers travelling into Queensland carry evidence of their employment and other related information, as detailed below.
Companies with Critical Resources Sector Employees must have a health plan in place that complies with the requirements of the Chief Health Officer.
At this stage, there are no movement restriction impacts on travel within Queensland.
Who is an exempt worker?
In the resources industry, the following persons will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on entry into Queensland:
- Any person who is ordinarily a resident in Queensland (including those returning from performing work in another state or territory).
- Any person who is providing transport or freight of goods, or logistics for the goods into, within and out of Queensland, provided that they practise social distancing whenever possible and remain self-quarantined in their vehicle or accommodation.
- Any person who is ordinarily a resident of NSW, SA and the NT and ordinarily works in Queensland by crossing a land border to attend work and does not propose to stay in Queensland for longer than reasonably necessary to attend work (i.e. DIDO employees).
- A Critical Resources Sector Employee.
The exemption for DIDO workers will need to be monitored closely particularly in light of the FIFO changes.
Who is a Critical Resources Sector Employee?
Critical Resources Sector Employee means a person that:
- Is required to be appointed under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 or the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, and the position is mentioned in the list published on the Queensland Health website; or
- Has been approved by the Chief Health Officer as a Critical Resources Sector Employee.
Those critical roles published on the Queensland Health website are:
Required position and application of the roles
Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999
- Site senior executive (SSE) – All coal mines
- Open cut examiner (OCE) – Surface mines
- Underground mine manager (UMM) – Underground mines
- Ventilation officer (VO) – Underground mines
- Explosion risk zone controller (ERZ) – Underground mines
- Mechanical engineering manager (MEM) – Underground mines
- Electrical engineering manager (EEM) – Underground mines and surface mines where electrical work is being carried out
- Underground fire officer – Requirement for emergency preparedness, underground mines
Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999
- Site senior executive (SSE) – Mineral mines and quarries
- Underground mine manager (UMM) – Underground mines
- Person to control electrical work - Mineral mines and quarries where electrical work is being, or is proposed to be, undertaken
- Person to control winding operations - Applies only to winding operations where winder of at least 30kW capacity is used
Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004
- Site safety manager – Operating plant
This list does not include any other FIFO mine workers, who are not exempt persons, unless they otherwise fall into another exempt category.
Minor additions to this list may occur but we don't expect any significant movement.
If you have any other workers who should be on the exempt list, including because they are critical to ongoing operations or ensuring safety, you should immediately raise the issue with government. Government will establish an electronic application process for critical workers and is expected to take a hard line approach to any approvals for additional exempt workers. MinterEllison can assist with this process.
What information do workers have to travel with?
Exempt FIFO workers will need to produce the following information on arrival:
- Personal and contact details;
- Address where they intend to stay in Queensland;
- Information about where they have travelled in the last 30 days;
- Name of their employer;
- Evidence that they are a FIFO worker;
- Evidence that they are entering Queensland to go directly to work;
- Evidence of the location of the worksite or work camp;
- Evidence that they are a Critical Resources Sector Employee (i.e. the role held at the mine or rig); and
- Any other information requested in an arrivals form.
Given the current focus on the movement of resources sector employees, we recommend any worker travelling to work (FIFO, DIDO or within Queensland) is provided with a document from their employer clearly setting out this information.
What does this mean for non-critical employees resident outside Queensland but working in Queensland?
Employees who are not DIDO employees entering from NSW, SA or NT or not Critical Resources Sector Employees will be required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days on entering Queensland. This has the obvious potential to cause significant disruption to staffing levels within resources companies who have a workforce which consists of interstate workers.
If a resource company is not able to usefully employ those interstate workers in Queensland as a result of the Public Health Direction, this may give rise to an ability for the company to stand down those employees. The ability to stand down an employee is set out in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), but is subject to an enterprise agreement or contract of employment which may also deal with stand down.
For more information on stand down see our earlier alert, COVID-19: Managing the effects on your workplace.
What is happening in other states?
The Western Australian Government implemented border restrictions effective from 24 March 2020 requiring new arrivals to quarantine for 14 days and, effective from midnight on 31 March 2020, restrictions on travel between regions within WA. Both sets of restrictions have certain exemptions, with the result they do not go as far as the position in Queensland.
For mining and oil and gas sectors, all FIFO employees will continue to be able to enter WA (or travel between regions) for work. Such employees have been strongly encouraged to travel with a company letter confirming similar details to those above, a health self-declaration, photo ID and be in uniform.
The WA Government has recently indicated a 'hard' state border closure is likely to take effect from midnight on 3 April 2020. Critical resource sector workers are expected to be exempt, though will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine before being allowed to travel to site.
In South Australia, the Department for Energy and Mining issued a message on 29 March 2020 urging resources companies to 'drastically reduce, and ideally eliminate, reliance on interstate travel and stabilise workforces on-site for sustained periods'. Non-essential movements must stop, and mining, oil and gas companies have been urged to prepare health plans similar to those in Queensland. The SA Government has indicated that restrictions on interstate travel will tighten further in the coming days.
In New South Wales, there are currently no border controls for persons entering for work.