Rio Tinto bolsters COVID-19 airport screening

Rio Tinto has ramped up its COVID-19 screening measures across Western Australia in an effort to further manage the pandemic.

The company has introduced rapid screening trials at Perth Airport to reduce the risk of transmission as part of its newly formed “five-layer screening process”.

As part of this process, the company has started rapid screening at the airport, which involves identifying those who are at a higher risk of having a viral illness through a blood sample.

The sample, which is taken through a finger pinprick will then be analysed for viral related antibodies in an employee’s blood.

Rio Tinto stated that as a precaution, the test would not be limited COVID-19, with any viral antibodies detected requiring the individual to self-isolate and receive testing at an approved clinic.

The process also involves a health questionnaire that will be issued to employees prior to travelling; an in-person assessment with a nurse at Perth Airport; and thermal screening to test employees’ temperatures.

An access band will be provided to those who have cleared the screening process, allowing them to board their flight.

The company’s stringent methods of testing aim to screen all fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) employees and contractors returning to work at Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations, with essential staff at the company’s operations centre also having to be screened.

“Our number one priority through this period is to protect the health of our employees and communities where we operate,” said Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury.

“We believe the introduction of rapid screening adds another layer of control to help prevent the transmission of the virus in WA.

“We are very confident in the veracity of our screening process which we strongly believe is an important tool to reduce risk for our communities and our people.

“This not only allows us to continue operating safely, which is important for the more than 12,000 people we employ, but it also enables us to continue making a strong contribution to the state’s economy.”

A team of trained medical staff will perform the screening process with additional oversight given by Rio Tinto’s occupational physician.

These measures are part of a broader range of controls introduced by the company to stop the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing on planes, buses, camps and vehicles, with reduced people on site and limited access to the company’s sites.

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