Rio Tinto expands coronavirus screening to regional WA airports

Medical staff performing coronavirus screen checks at Perth airport. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto is set to introduce coronavirus screening measures to three additional Western Australian airports: Busselton, Geraldton and Albany.

The rapid screening process applies to fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers and started at Busselton Airport last Friday.

Rio Tinto plans to roll out the same process at Geraldton and Albany airports in coming weeks after a successful five-layer screening process which has been in place at Perth Airport since last month.

The Busselton, Geraldton and Albany airports are some of the company’s busiest transport hubs, with 900 FIFO workers expected to pass through the airports every fortnight.

Rio Tinto now requires its FIFO workers to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure times to allow for the screening, which is overseen by the company’s occupational physician.

It includes online and face to face health questionnaires, temperature checks and a rapid finger prick blood screen that’s performed by a nurse to detect viral antibodies.

While this is not a diagnostic test for coronavirus, the employee will be given a coloured wrist band to confirm that their blood screen is clear and they can board the flight.

Anyone requiring further testing will not be allowed to depart and will be forwarded on to an approved coronavirus clinic to take a diagnostic test.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the company’s top priority was protecting its employees’ health as well as the communities where it operated, which was why the company had expanded the screening to include its important regional hubs.

“Since the introduction at Perth Airport last month, rapid screening has proven to be an effective tool enabling quick identification of people who may be at increased risk of having a viral illness prior to getting on a plane and arriving at a site in the Pilbara,” Salisbury said.

“The broader roll-out of our layered screening process to other regional airports such as Geraldton and Albany will allow us to continue operating safely and importantly, making a strong contribution to Western Australian communities.”

More than 8000 Rio Tinto’s FIFO employees and contractors have been through the screening process in the past month.

The introduction of screening processes at Busselton, Geraldton and Albany are also expected to create around 100 jobs, including nurses who may be out of work due to elective surgery restrictions during the pandemic.

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