BHP continues to take action to help keep its people, their families and communities safe as the evolving impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires varying responses in countries around the world.
BHP Chief Executive Officer, Mike Henry, said: “Our priority remains to reduce the risk of transmission and to protect our workforce, their families and our communities. This will also enable us to keep the business safely running, supporting all those who rely on us.”
“We know this is a difficult time for many, and we remain focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of our people and their families. We will continue to provide support where it is needed most – emergency and humanitarian aid, local health facilities, essential regional services, Indigenous communities, local businesses and livelihoods.
“We have worked closely with the communities where we operate to establish funding mechanisms and other support for health, wellbeing and resilience, to help protect the most vulnerable from infection, manage any potential outbreak and mitigate the broader impacts of this pandemic.
“In recent weeks, there has been a small increase in the number of cases reported in our Chilean team across three sites. In all cases, our response plans were enacted quickly, with individuals suspected of having the virus safely evacuated for testing, isolation and medical care.
“The disciplined controls we have implemented around health and travel, and the commitment of our people has enabled us to continue to safely operate, supporting jobs and underpinning regional economic activity.
“Governments are updating health guidelines based on transmission levels and health advice at national, state and regional levels. In some countries such as Australia we are seeing an easing of restrictions, while in others there tighter measures have been put in place.
“Broadly, we expect to retain reduced numbers at our work locations, split-shifts when possible at our offices, and flexible working from home for some time, to maintain social distancing and protect those at greater risk from COVID-19.
“All decisions related to easing restrictions at sites and in our offices will be based on targeted assessments of local risks, resources, needs and regulations, and with full consideration of the health and mental wellbeing of our people, their families and communities.”
Evolving our response
In addition to the stringent measures that have been in place across BHP’s global portfolio for several weeks and include social distancing, health screening and hygiene, the company is reviewing a range of new measures to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Health and wellbeing
- In line with health advice globally, we are focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of our people and their families. We have significantly increased the support services available, including localised counselling services on top of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available 24/7, a range of online campaigns and communication tools, and new communication rhythms to help our people and teams stay connected. While the EAP is already available to families, we are looking at ways to make other tools more widely available – for example, BHP’s Thrive Mental Health Toolkit is now available on the BHP website in English and Spanish.
- BHP is examining the potential for further testing methods to be used if required in addition to the screening tools already effectively in place including temperature checks, health assessments, social distancing, hygiene practices and self-isolation protocols. For example, BHP is participating in an industry-sponsored, government-endorsed trial in Western Australia of molecular testing (nose and throat swabs). Based on the trial outcomes and expert health advice, that testing method could be introduced at some airports and sites, in consultation with relevant governments. Molecular testing is also being used in some parts of our US petroleum operations.
- From next week, BHP will begin voluntary field trials in Chile of a new app developed in collaboration between the HSE and Technology teams as an additional safeguard to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The field trial will include BHP’s site and office employees in Chile, and it will be done in compliance with local law and under BHP data privacy policies and controls to ensure data accuracy and test technical configuration. If successful, the app has the potential to be deployed at other sites and offices across BHP. The app is being designed to apply to BHP’s global mining and petroleum operations. In the event that an employee or contractor tests positive to COVID-19, authorised HSE personnel would use that person’s data – with their permission – to identify their movements while at work and quickly isolate, clean and sanitise the areas in which they had been working to reduce the risk of surface transmission. The data could also be used to expedite existing contact tracing measures, and complement similar measures already in place in countries such as Singapore and Australia.
- Any additional screening or testing methods that are currently in trial will only be applied following thorough assessment with health experts and in consultation with relevant government agencies, at each of our locations.
At sites and offices
- At our global sites, we continue to focus on safe operations, as outlined in BHP’s most recent Operational Review released on 21 April. All measures and controls are being implemented in line with health authority requirements and in consultation with governments.
- In Chile, we are undertaking additional health screenings for our workforce to travel to sites for roster changes. In addition, employees and contractors who reside in the City of Antofagasta will be issued with special permits to allow travel to and from site, in line with new government requirements introduced on 5 May.
- Additionally in Chile, BHP has continued to take steps to help reduce the risk to employees and contractors, such as removing high-risk individuals from site and office work (e.g. those with chronic conditions), providing online tools and self-evaluations, facilitating sanitary hotels and medical assistance for nonlocally based personnel, providing single-use rooms in camps, ensuring social distancing on all transport, providing influenza vaccinations and access to the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- At BHP offices, most people are still working remotely in cities including London, Singapore, and Melbourne, in line with government guidelines. In other locations such as Houston and Santiago, staff are gradually returning to the office in reduced numbers and maintaining strict social distancing guidelines.
In the community
- In Chile, BHP has announced a US$8 million assistance program that includes an agreement with the Medical Faculty of Universidad Católica to increase the testing capacity and medical treatment facilities in vulnerable areas of Santiago, and the Antofagasta and Tarapacá Northern regions. An additional US$3 million fund has been created to provide COVID-19 donations to our communities.
- Also in Chile, BHP is supporting contracting partners whose activities at sites have been interrupted due to workforce demobilisation. For the companies that qualified for this benefit (medium size companies facing financial challenges and/or with an important regional or local workforce) BHP will continue to voluntarily pay 70% or 90% of the fixed remuneration and social security costs associated to the contractual scope of the works until 30 June 2020. The commitment is for US$25 million, benefiting up to 7,600 people who work for contractors at BHP sites, and their families.
- In Australia, the A$50 million Vital Resources Fund has committed A$25 million to 46 organisations and initiatives across the country over the past six weeks since it was established in late March. This includes A$7.6 million in funding to establish local community health clinics in Central Queensland to bolster testing and treatment in regional communities, and A$2.66 million to the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia to support a trial of drugs that could reduce the infectiousness of people who contract COVID-19.
- In Australia, approximately 1100 people of the 1500 previously announced have been put on new six-month contracts through BHP’s contractor partners to support Australian operations.
- In North America, a US$2 million fund has supported local and regional health and wellness programs as well as essential community services. This includes direct donations for PPE and meals for medical professionals, extending mental services to first responders and community members, and providing grants to small business relief funds. Additionally, employees completed an exercise fundraising challenge where for every 15 minutes of exercise logged through a mobile application, the company contributed US$15. Over two weeks, employees raised more than US$100,000 for food banks near operations, projects, and legacy sites.
- The BHP Foundation has committed A$3 million to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 with two world-leading research institutions based in Australia. The Foundation will provide A$2 million to support the University of Queensland to develop a potential vaccine currently in clinical development – one of eight supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with potential to be manufactured at scale and made available around the world. The University of Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity will receive A$1 million from for its Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT). This clinical trial will test the effectiveness and safety of potential COVID-19 treatment drugs in patients hospitalised with the virus, in the hope they will prevent them deteriorating to the point of needing a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
For more information on BHP community efforts amid COVID-19, please visit: https://www.bhp.com/covid-19