More than a dozen workers infected at processing plant

January 27, 2022 Richard Szabo

A growing number of employees caught a highly contagious disease at a resource extraction facility.

At least 13 workers recently tested positive to coronavirus (COVID-19) at Mineral Resources’ Albemarle Kemerton Processing Plant.

A further 87 team members have been identified as close contacts and placed in quarantine. Nearly 84 per cent of them produced a negative test result while 14 individuals are still waiting for confirmation, according to the Western Australian Department of Health.

The outbreak prompted the proponent to temporarily suspend construction at the Wellesley work site, about 24km northeast of Bunbury.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) complained about some employees not receiving timely updates. The union claims this lack of transparency unnecessarily risked the wellbeing of affected family members, especially during Australia Day celebrations.

“Some people have been given some information while others have none,” AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney said according to News Limited.

“That creates genuine fear around infecting other[s] but, more importantly, when they go home to their families are they potentially infecting their partners and children?”

The State Government suspects the plant’s jump in COVID-19 cases might be related to new infections across the broader community.

“The nine [cases in Bunbury] … relate to Albemarle in one way or another and everyone who works on site is vaccinated,” Premier Mark McGowan said according to WA Newspapers.

“There are around 30 contractors on site but one contractor and one work area in particular have been affected.”

McCartney hopes the employer will learn from this experience and implement a COVID-19 response plan on top of existing staff vaccine requirements.

“There is no real policy about having a covert action plan on the job because, if they have got one, it is not working. These guys are still getting together on [crowded] buses going to work in the morning, there are no [split or] staggered shifts and there is no real evidence of any cleaning regime changes,” he said according to the Australian Associated Press.

“I cannot walk on a site without telling them how many injections I have had and when my next injection’s due and if I have done a test, so I am wondering why they do not have to follow the same responsibilities.”

The proponent confirmed all plant workers have been vaccinated and the site is complying with official health protocols.

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