Large local workforce a saving grace for region’s safety

THE coronavirus pandemic has resulted in some major gas companies reducing their Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) workforce to help reduce transmission of the coronavirus.

An Arrow Energy spokesman said 80% of their Surat Basin workforce lives locally with a 30% reduction in FIFO workers since the restrictions came in.

“We limited worker movements to the Western Downs to operations-critical roles only,” he said.

“Staff travelling to the Western Downs were transported directly to site on Arrow charter buses between Brisbane and site, with social distancing standards.

“All were required to carry out pre-travel health checks and temperature screening before departure and at site.”

He said Arrow introduced new camps for their non-local workforce to help with social distancing and hygiene measures.

Their community information centre in Dalby has been closed to the public to accommodate local staff who can’t work from home.

“A single overseas FIFO worker, from New Zealand, has been based in Dalby since COVID-19 travel restrictions took effect.

“All other overseas nationals on staff are based in Australia and either live in Western Downs or drive in and out from Brisbane on the Arrow-only charter bus.”

Critical operations crew from outside the Surat Basin must stay in camps outside of Dalby’s town limits and can only leave the camps for work or drive-through takeaway.

Shell QGC’s FIFO workforce is much smaller at 6%.

A spokeswoman for Shell confirmed that no FIFO workers are travelling from overseas at present.

“We recognise the benefits of a local workforce and will always hire locally when we can,” she said.

“Where workers in safety-critical roles live interstate, a number have been granted exemptions as essential workers for travel from locations approved by Queensland’s chief medical officer.

“Queensland Government regulations for essential workers stipulate any FIFO workers travelling from interstate entering Queensland go directly to their work site.”

According to the spokeswoman, a number of individuals have relocated to Queensland to work or contract for QGC under their own accommodation arrangements.

Surat Basin Real Estate leasing officer Kimberly Lingard said their rental market has not changed in regards to FIFO workers.

“We have approximately three people who haven’t been able to return home who have rented properties,” she said.

“One was trying to return to New Zealand and the other was Thailand.

“The other one was from interstate.

“They’ve taken six-month leases to be able to continue work.”

An APA spokeswoman said they do not employ FIFO workers from overseas.

“All day-to-day operations for APA’s gas transmission pipelines, distribution pipelines and solar farm in the Western Downs are managed by staff located in the region or the greater Brisbane area,” she said.

“Some ad hoc major maintenance activities require specialist capabilities from around Australia.

“There have been no such requirements during the COVID-19 border restriction period.”

The spokeswoman said FIFO workers in remote parts of Australia have now switched their commutes to driving.


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