The Western Australian Government has today released official public health directions mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for resources sector workers, some four weeks after first announcing the policy in a press conference.
The Resources Industry Worker (Restrictions on Access) Directions (“Directions”) applies to two groups of employees – “Resources Industry Workers” and “Rig or Platform Crew Members” – the definitions of which are provided within.
The Directions state that a resources industry worker must not work at, or remain at, a rural or remote resources industry site, on or from 12:01am on 1 December 2021, unless they have been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.
From 1 January 2022 the restriction to site applies for any employee who has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The same timeline is provided for rig or platform crew members, who will be barred from entering or remaining at a rural or remote airport or a state port for the purpose of undertaking a journey, if they haven’t met the vaccine requirements.
Exemptions apply for the following:
- An individual with a medical exemption, meaning one recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register and displayed on the individual’s Immunisation History Statement;
- An individual with a ‘temporary exemption’ meaning one approved by the state’s Chief Health Officer;
- An individual who is a traditional owner of the land on which a resources industry site is operating and who is visiting that site;
- An individual performing a law enforcement function that cannot be reasonably performed other than by entering the site;
- An individual exercising a statutory duty under a law of the Commonwealth that cannot be reasonably performed other than by entering the site;
- An individual responding to an emergency and a partially or fully vaccinated individual is not available to provide the response; and
- An individual performing a duty or exercising a right or power under a Fair Work entry permit, a WHS entry permit issued by the Fair Work Commission or a right of entry permit under state industrial relations laws.
AREEA considers the final exemption listed above particularly difficult to justify and will be consulting with the WA Government on its reasoning as to why union officials exercising their rights under a Fair Work entry permit should be exempt from vaccine requirements applying to almost all others seeking to enter that worksite.
The Directions require employers to take all reasonable and lawful steps to collect and maintain records of the vaccination status of employees captured by this mandate.
Those records must be protected and only disclosed to an emergency officer or nominated officer (such as a government department official or port authority manager) for the purposes of complying with the Directions.
Employers are also obligated to only roster on, or otherwise permit to work on a site, an employee who meets the vaccination requirements of the Directions.
AREEA strongly encourages members based in Western Australia or with operations in the state to carefully read the Directions and seek AREEA’s support or guidance if required.
Contact [email protected] or call the AREEA Perth office at (08) 6381 0378 for support and assistance.