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How the AWU is Helping to Keep WestConnex Workers Safe from COVID-19

May 7, 2020

Health and safety has always been a big priority for those working underground.

But, the arrival of COVID-19 has led the AWU and the Joint Venture contractor behind the WestConnex M4-M5 Link Tunnels Project to ramp up member safety.

It’s not only giving peace of mind to the approximately 600 workers on site, it’s also demonstrating that the construction industry can continue to power Australia’s economy and do so safely.

The AWU has been working closely with The Lendlease Samsung Bouygues Joint Venture to bring in a raft of extra health and safety measures.

The majority of workers on site wanted to keep working, and with construction being deemed an essential service, discussions immediately began on how best to avoid exposure and the spread of COVID-19.

Paul Ferraro, AWU Construction Organiser, said: “At the beginning there was a lot of concern about COVID-19. The project had to very quickly adapt the workplace to ensure best practices were put in place, and this was done in a matter of days through a very consultative process.

“We are lucky in the civil construction business that people don’t have to work as closely together as those would do on a normal construction site, but things still had to change.‚ÄĚ

Extra personal protective gear was provided on top of standard kit. Pre-start meetings are held in much smaller numbers, meal breaks have been staggered, seating was spread apart and there is signage everywhere reminding people to follow hygiene protocols.

Routine and industrial cleaning has been ramped up.

Every member also has their temperature taken before entering site.

Anyone who records a temperature of above 37.5C or above has to take it again in 30 minutes and if it’s still high they are then sent to a GP and examined – as not everyone with a high temperature will have COVID-19.

Mr Ferraro added: “It was really important to us that just having a high temperature wouldn’t mean you would have to stop work and isolate for 14 days as a high temperature could be something other than COVID-19. We use this as an indicator and it’s the GP who makes the decision about if someone is safe to return to the workplace and when.‚ÄĚ

Workers are also being encouraged to speak to their supervisor if they display any other COVID-19 symptoms such as a cough.

Any contractors employed on site also have to answer a questionnaire focusing on their recent movements, overseas travel and any symptoms.

Join the AWU today to keep workplaces across Australia safe and operating throughout COVID-19 and beyond.

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