Hutchison explains virus infections action at terminal


Stevedore’s Sydney facility the focus of stakeholder concern and official consultation

Hutchison explains virus infections action at terminal
HPA's Sydney terminal is due to open tomorrow

 

After taking expressions of concern from container haulage interests and fire from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA) has explained the situation of two coronavirus Covid-19 infections at its Sydney stevedoring operation.

HPA states the two cases that came to its attention on Friday and Sunday were not workplace transmissions and health authorities have given company all-clear.

The HPA terminal has been closed and is due to reopen tomorrow.

The stevedore is also subject to inquiries from Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) seeking assurances all necessary steps are being taken to protect the safety and health of transport operators, and their drivers and customers when the terminal reopens.

The company is the subject of fierce criticism from the MUA over a lack of candour and consultation, though the company insists it had "within hours informed all staff".

"It’s like Hutchison are not part of this community crisis and global pandemic," MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith says.

HPA says it did consult with local health authorities and SafeWork NSW and took immediate measures recommended by these regulatory bodies to manage the situation.

"Our management worked with NSW Health to identify possible close contacts of the first case, and as a precautionary measure, 17 people who were deemed by us as possible close contacts – but not confirmed close contacts – were instructed to self-isolate for 14 days while we continue to pay them," HPA CEO John Willy says.

"We have worked with SafeWork NSW and they have not imposed any operating restrictions. We would only allow our workers on site if it was meeting all health requirements.

"At each step of the way HPA has communicated to staff the latest information within hours of being presented information and establishing the facts.

"The only thing the company has not revealed to staff – or the union – are the identities of infected employees for privacy reasons.

"I want to reiterate that our two positive staff cases of Covid-19 were not workplace transmissions.

"Since the early onset of the pandemic globally, HPA has had multiple layers of controlled measures in place to ensure the site is safe to operate.

"Both well before and after the reported positive Covid-19 cases in our workforce, HPA has worked proactively within both its Sydney and Brisbane terminals, with measures including the appointment of a pandemic disease manager to manage emergency responses, Covid-19 contact officers for all employees to seek support and advice as well as implementing policies and procedures detailing stringent social distancing and hygiene controls.

"What we all know as people living in affected Australian communities is that Covid-19 is with us for some time and HPA has been well prepared to manage this ongoing situation in order to keep critical supplies including medicines and other essentials flowing to the Australian public."


Read the MUA's coronavirus concerns regarding visiting ships, here 


 

HPA says each of the 17 workers have been instructed to self-isolate for 14 days and they remain on full pay during this period."

In addition, Hutchison Ports Sydney undertook a review to identify any potential further risks associated with this diagnosis, which resulted in HPA being recommended by NSW Health to conduct an 'Environmental (Terminal) Clean' in accordance with federal government guidelines.

The cleaning process began on Friday and was completed on Sunday, April 5 and during this period HP Sydney elected to undertake a ‘deep clean’, which is a level greater than the recommended ‘environmental clean’.

Of the second infected employee, NSW Health is said to have advised that the infection period began on March 29 and HPA says that employee has not been at the site during the infectious period.

"As such, after working with health authorities and the employee, it has been concluded that this also was not a workplace transmission," HPA adds.

 

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