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Shearers test positive to COVID

August 25, 2021

The Australian Workers’ Union has condemned the dismissive attitude to workplace safety by some shearing contractors after news emerged that a number of workers have tested positive to COVID and more than a dozen have been told to isolate on a NSW farm due to fears of an outbreak.

The AWU is extremely concerned about the workers’ welfare, with the farm in a remote, isolated location.

Due to shearing’s mobile workforce, the union now fears its warnings on COVID early last week are now becoming reality and the outbreak could spread the disease throughout the bush.

The AWU reported that shearing and shed hands had told the union many woolgrowers and contractors were failing to act on health measures designed to stop the spread of the virus.

“It is disappointing this outbreak has occurred so soon after we publicly raised concerns about this issue to try and get everyone to take it seriously,” Ron Cowdrey, AWU NSW Vice President and its shearing organiser, says.

“Last week we again saw a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude by some shearing contractors – well now it’s clearly not all right. The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia (SCAA) has to take their head out of their arse and start doing the responsible thing for their members and the industry.

“Shearing and shed workers regularly work and travel between multiple sites and states, and we warned that unless the industry took COVID safety seriously it was a disaster waiting to happen – clearly that disaster is now closer to being the case.”

 

Mr Cowdrey said it was essential for the industry to get together and develop an urgent but sensible response to the dangers posed by the pandemic. This should include:

  • Rapid antigen testing available on sites, followed by additional PCR secondary tests.
  • Having shearing industry workers lifted up the vaccination priority lists in regional NSW, and encouraging them to get vaccinated.
  • Workers, farmers and contractors working togeather to take COVID seriously and follow safety protocols.
  • Calling on SafeWork NSW to do its job and actually visit shearing sheds.

Meantime Mr Cowdrey said that while shearing’s strenuous nature made COVID-safe practices difficult, woolgrowers and contractors could follow the example of other businesses by taking a few simple steps to protect themselves and their workers, including:

    • Provide proper hand-washing stations with running water and sanitiser for workers.
    • Ensure all shearing workers and visitors check in with a NSW QR code (or paper record) every day.
    • Ensure masks are worn indoors (except when shearing, which is classed as strenuous physical activity).
    • Enforce safe social distancing – 1.5m between workers. If that isn’t possible between stands, use every second stand.
    • Disinfect and clean down high-touch surfaces and equipment between use.

“Shearing is considered an essential service and everyone needs to do their part to keep the industry operating’” he said.

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