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Guidelines for border restriction exemptions for the mining, resources, energy and water sectors

Changes to border restrictions

Current Queensland border restrictions are in force, placing tighter controls on people moving into Queensland from declared COVID-19 hotspots.

Under the current border restrictions direction, the Queensland border is closed to anyone who has been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days with limited exceptions. These limited exceptions include people who are required in Queensland to perform an essential and time critical activity.

This new process will be much more stringent than previous exemption processes due to the emerging public health considerations.

IMPORTANT: Any previous exemptions issued under previous border directions will not be valid under this new process. New applications will be required and previous approval for exemption does not guarantee approval under the new direction.

This guideline highlights the process and considerations which the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy will follow when considering any applications to the Chief Health Officer for special exemptions for employees travelling from declared COVID-19 hotpots.

This information is for employers in the resources, energy and water sectors. If you are applying for an exemption from another industry, read the Queensland border declaration pass (essential activity) or phone 134 COVID (13 42 68).

Specialist worker exemptions when travelling from COVID-19 hotspots

A specialist worker is defined as a person who provides emergency services or continuity of government or government funded services, industry, infrastructure or utilities critical to Queensland under the following categories:

  • critical resource sector employees
  • energy sector employees
  • water and sewerage service providers.

A specialist worker must meet all the following specifications:

  • the services provided by the person cannot be obtained in Queensland
  • the service must be provided without delay
  • the person must be physically present in Queensland to provide the service or perform the duty
  • the person's status is approved as a specialist worker by the Chief Health Officer
  • the person's employer has a plan to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among its employees and the community, and the plan complies with the requirements specified by the Chief Health Officer
  • the person provides evidence of the following information upon arrival in Queensland:
    1. their status as an approved specialist worker
    2. the name of their employer
    3. that they are entering Queensland to go directly to work
    4. the location of the worksite or work camp
    5. the location of where they will be accommodated in Queensland while performing the essential activity.
  • the person complies with any conditions forming part of their approval as a specialist worker.

Applying for exemptions in the resources, energy and water sectors

IMPORTANT: Applications will only be accepted from the following organisations:

Applications received directly from consultants, contractors and individuals will be rejected.

Exemptions issued will be one-off and time bound. If a worker leaves Queensland and seeks to re-enter Queensland, you must apply for another another exemption.

You should allow at least 14 days for the applications to be processed. Workers are unable to cross the border until they are granted the exemption.

To apply for a specialist worker exemption under the resources, energy or water supply and sewerage sectors:

  1. Complete the online specialist worker status online application form.
  2. Upload relevant details of staff for which exemptions are applied for in the provided specialist worker exemption details Excel spreadsheet (XLSX, 14KB).
  3. Include any relevant supporting information including your company health plan. If needed, you can use the health plan template (DOCX, 222KB).
  4. If approval is given, a letter will be sent from Queensland Health to the company or service provider advising that the employee(s) have qualified for exemption.
  5. The company will provide a copy of the letter to the relevant worker. This letter can be presented to border authorities when entering Queensland.

Positions that will be considered for exemptions

Resources sector

The considerations that will be applied in assessing applications are significantly more restrictive than previous exemption processes and it is expected that any exemptions granted will be exceptions.

The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy will only consider applications for the following:

  1. Workers appointed to a statutory role required under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (CMSH Act), the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (MQSH Act) or the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (P&G Act)
  2. Safety critical positions where there is a clear and present need for their entry into Queensland. Examples of safety critical positions include:
  3. Production critical positions in very limited circumstances where the absence of the worker would necessitate complete and/or substantial shut-down of operations.

Meeting these criteria will not result in automatic exemption. The Chief Health Officer will also need to consider broader health factors. In all cases applicants will also be required to demonstrate with detailed evidence the following considerations:

  • why they have not replaced this position with a Queensland-based employee – noting that significant time has passed allowing recruitment to take place
  • the skill set is genuinely and manifestly not available within Queensland beyond being an inconvenience or economically detrimental to source the local labour
  • why they cannot go through 14 days self-funded quarantine based on nature and timing of their work.

Energy sector

This category includes electricity (generation, transmission, distribution and network services) and liquid fuel (wholesale and retail) applications, and gas where it relates to a gas-fired power station and associated infrastructure. Other petroleum and gas related applications fall under the resources sector category (above).

The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy will only consider applications that demonstrate the work is essential to Queensland’s energy sector and can meet the following criteria:

Electricity examples

  1. Safety – the work is critical to ensuring the safe and secure functioning of an electricity network asset, or the work is related to an emergency or incident response.
  2. Repairs and overhauls – the work is to undertake repairs and overhauls of an electricity network asset (generation, transmission, distribution).
  3. Construction – the work is to deliver infrastructure critical to Queensland energy supply.

Below is additional advice on what may be required for the following criteria:

  • The services required by the person cannot reasonably be obtained in Queensland: The employer must provide details of actions they have taken to confirm the services are not available in Queensland.
  • The service must be provided without delay: The employer must provide details to support that if the service is not delivered it will (or is likely to) lead to:
    • short, medium or long term disruption to an electricity market generation unit, transmission or distribution infrastructure
    • loss of electricity service
    • failure of gas infrastructure to return to service
    • shut down, closure or delay in opening of state transmission or distribution infrastructure or an electricity market generation unit.

Liquid fuel examples

Note, there have been no changes to freight requirements or restrictions.

  1. Safety – the work is critical to ensuring the safe and secure functioning of a wholesale or retail fuel operation which is critical to supply, or the work is related to an emergency or incident response.
  2. Repairs and overhauls – the work is to undertake repairs and overhauls of a wholesale or retail fuel operation and delay would result in reduced supply availability.
  3. Construction – the work is to deliver infrastructure critical to Queensland liquid fuel supply.

Below is additional advice on what may be required for the following criteria:

  • The services required by the person cannot reasonably be obtained in Queensland: The employer must provide details of actions they have taken to confirm the services are not available in Queensland.
  • The service must be provided without delay: The employer must provide details to support that if the service is not delivered, it will (or is likely to) lead to delays and disruption to a wholesale or retail operation or infrastructure, supply chain disruption, or have a significant delay to opening (if it is a new build).

Water and sewerage service providers

The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy will only consider applications that demonstrate the work is essential to maintaining the safety and reliability of Queensland's drinking water and sewerage sector and can meet the following criteria:

  1. Workers hold a recognised competency to undertake a task at a drinking water and/or sewage treatment plant or within a service operation
  2. The work planned to be undertaken by the worker is critical and urgent to maintain the safety and/or continuity of a drinking water or sewerage service
  3. Not engaging the worker will result in a total or substantial shut down of the essential drinking water and/or sewerage service operation or otherwise risk the safety or reliability of drinking water supply
  4. The skills cannot be obtained within Queensland either from commercial providers or through collaboration with other drinking water and sewerage service providers.

In all cases, applicants will be required to provide sufficient supporting evidence to demonstrate the person's status to be approved as a specialist worker.

For more information about water and sewerage service specialist workers applications, contact drinkingwater.reporting@dnrme.qld.gov.au.

Reasons that will not be considered for exemption

The following reasons are unlikely to be considered a justifiable reason for an exemption:

  • Production staff where the absence of the staff member will not result in a total or substantial shut down of the operation. If the impact (which will need to be justified by the applicant) is only partial, minor or will have an impact on efficiency or efficacy, then this will not generally be considered.
  • Applications directly from contractors or consultants – all applications must be passed through the company or operator.
  • Contractual arrangements – a contractual arrangement with a consultant or contractor will not be considered a valid justification for an exemption to be granted.
  • Periodic return home off roster – exemptions will not be considered that provides for the regular movement into and out of Queensland because of shift arrangements.
  • Employees engaged in exploration work, mine planning and expansion, approvals, environmental monitoring, geotechnical or mine surveying activities.
  • For a mine, an employee whose role is not:
    • one within the mine's management structure (see section 55 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 and section 50 of the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999)
    • or
    • one which reports into the management structure and whose duties are carried out at site.

Travelling from locations not declared as a COVID-19 hotspot

Workers travelling from locations not declared as COVID-19 hotspots will be required to fill out and carry a general border declaration pass. They are not required to apply for a specialist worker exemption.

Contact

Coronavirus (COVID-19) business support: 1300 654 687

General enquiries: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)