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With 36 years of industry experience under his hard hat, Tom Atto - Production Operator at BMC’s Poitrel Mine, is ready to take the next step in his career and complete his Open Cut Examiner (OCE) certification.

Tom is a proud Indigenous man, Moranbah local and second generation BHP employee – the last being an impressive feat only outdone by his two children, who have followed in his footsteps and joined the BHP team.

Following the onset of COVID-19, BHP took additional measures to support our teammates who were most vulnerable, due to their age, health conditions or other individual circumstances – because above all else, people’s health and wellbeing came first.

Tom was identified as someone who would be at greater risk of serious illness if he contracted COVID-19 and, to ensure his health and safety, he has spent the last five months away from the ‘coal face’ – but not entirely.

He has used the downtime to study.

“My manager and superintendent asked if I was interested in completing my OCE, and at first I wasn’t. But they continued to ‘poke the bear’ and after some reflection I thought bloody oath - I need the challenge,” Tom said.

The statutory qualification will see Tom take on added responsibility ensuring the health and safety of his team mates in and around mining activities. He hopes the new accountability will allow him to pass on the knowledge acquired over his career and mentor the next generation.

“It's not about one person on a digger, the whole team needs to come together to make sure we're on our game, that we do it right, and we look out for each other,” Tom said.

With only the practical side left to complete, Tom is excited to return to site and finalise his OCE certification as soon as it is safe to do so.

While he admits that it’s been difficult being away from his team, Tom feels supported by his leaders and believes BHP “is doing the right thing by me, my friends and my family”.

“Every day is challenging and rewarding and as long as we keep looking out for each other and moving with the times, we will be alright,” Tom said.

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