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COVID-19 work protocol standards released

Mining companies will start 2021 under a new International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standard, ISO/PAS (publicly available specification) 45005, to ensure safe operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ISO/PAS 45005, occupational health and safety management – general guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic was developed by a panel of experts from 26 countries.

It aims to manage risks arising from COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of employees, stating that workers “should not be required to work unless these measures have been implemented”.

Under the new standard, organisations must understand the risks of its activities to visitors, customers, service users and the public.

It must also assess external issues that may impact its workers’ health and safety, such as the prevalence of COVID-19 within the local community, local, regional, national and international circumstances, along with the availability of services such as testing, treatments, hand sanitisers, masks, thermometers and personal protective equipment (PPE).

ISO/PAS 45005 also instructs organisations to consider how their employees travel to and from work, such as fly-in, fly-out mining operations.

“The organisation has a duty of care to workers and other interested parties who can be affected by their activities,” ISO stated.

“The organisation should encourage participation and involve workers and worker representatives, where they exist, in assessing risks related to COVID-19 and making decisions on how to manage them.

“(It) should (also) ensure decision-makers and worker representatives take into account the full diversity of the workforce and the specific experiences, views and needs of, for example, workers with disabilities, workers from different ethnic and faith groups and workers of different ages.”

For mining companies, whose role cannot be performed at home, should consult with workers to ensure they are confident to use their own discretion to act appropriately in their mobile role.

According to the Ernst & Young top 10 business risks and opportunities for mining and metals in 2021 report, miners have changed the way they contemplate workplace risks in the past year due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of preparing for company-destroying risks,” Ernst & Young stated.

“The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of understanding and reviewing high-impact risks, particularly as there is a significant link between a company’s ability to manage them and its license to operate.

“Economic uncertainty is challenging miners’ ability to make long-term decisions about demand, a reflection of the impact of COVID-19 on the global commodities market.”

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