While millions of Australians have been staying home to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – working from home, teaching, studying – much of our operational workforce has been on site, hard at work to keep the lights on and the gas flowing.
We’ve had to be proactive and fast acting, enhancing our business continuity planning and ramping up our precautionary measures to protect all our people and ensure the safety and reliability of our operations.
Safety: our primary consideration
Safety’s our most important consideration at AGL – from our people, the community, our operational sites, to our corporate offices, to our work on customer sites.
The work that our people do – both on our generation sites and in our customers’ homes and businesses – can present higher levels of risk. That’s why we have a strong safety culture embedded in our business and driven by our leadership. This safety culture has led us to develop extensive policies and processes in place to minimise the risk to the health and safety of our people.
These range from the basic – for example, ensuring that the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn at all times, and adhering to the ten Life Saving Rules – to the more complex, like specific procedures for specific situations (such as working in a confined space or with suspended loads).
The 12 highest risk areas (such as working at heights or with electricity) also have dedicated Critical Control Checks assigned to them – step-by-step checks for our leadership to perform to ensure that all safety aspects of the task at hand are being covered.
Our priority is reliably providing energy for our customers and our communities – but doing so with safety as a non-negotiable consideration. We’re focused on the health and wellbeing of our people.
COVID-19 and our sites
The pandemic has presented its own set of challenges which need to be faced. It’s essential that we do everything in our power to keep the virus from our sites.
To this end, established the Group Operations Pandemic Working Group (GOPWG) to help develop and deliver on Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) and Trigger Action Response Plans (TARPS) – essentially a set of plans on how we keep the lights on and the gas flowing during this time, and what happens if we have a breach – as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.
Practicing social distancing at toolbox meetings
AGL Strategy Lead Jim Schroeter is the GOPWG’s chair.
‘Our ability to continue to provide the Australian community with an essential service has never been so important,’ Jim said.
‘The Working Group is collaborating with site Emergency Management and Incident Management teams to ensure the relevant controls are implemented at a site level to protect our people and maintain our ability to operate.’
‘One of the ways we're testing our levels of preparedness is by engaging our Risk and Governance team to conduct in-depth reviews of each of our site plans.
‘Having these independent reviews highlights the fantastic work already achieved by some sites, and helps to identify any gaps in our controls.’
Performing temperature checks on people entering sites
Stuart Cariss is AGL’s Renewables Operations Manager, and a member of the GOPWG. He explains some of the changes, measures, and contingencies that have had to be brought rapidly online to deal with the risk of an outbreak of an infection at site.
‘Keeping up with the changing external environment has been a challenge,’ Stuart said.
‘We have established a daily rhythm of dedicated meetings and communications for the quick sharing of information and for escalation of any issues, but this is particularly challenging without as much face-to-face contact and the nature of our geographically diverse teams.
‘The last few weeks have been fairly hectic but establishing this daily rhythm has assisted us to setup and plan for a safe and successful day the following day in dealing with what is a rapidly changing environment.’
Entirely new ways of working had to be developed, Stuart said. In particular, teams and rosters have been segregated from one another as a way to stop a potential spread – which means no more face-to-face handovers.
‘Implementing workforce segregation plans and the new health screening processes has been one of the other challenges the team has faced, but the effective separation of our critical working groups has been well received and understood to be integral in continuing to provide our essential services and keeping the lights on,’ he said.
‘Additionally, we triggered our Renewables Dispatch Centre BCP early in preparation for a Melbourne office closure and the Renewable Dispatch Operations was split in two teams working from two separate geographical locations within Victoria.’
Power dispatch is handled centrally from a control room in AGL’s Melbourne Bourke St office.
‘One of the best things I have seen to come out of these unprecedented times is literally seeing AGL’s values in action,’ Stuart said.
‘The offers for help have been many. We have seen many individuals go out of their way to take on extra work and support teams outside of their normal operating areas.
‘The response to segregation and continuity plans has also been one of a supportive ‘can-do’ approach - some employees are even living away from the community in which they live to support our continuity plans.
‘The continual review of our controls and their effectiveness is also front and centre with many feeling safe to speak up to challenge, tweak and improve initial control measures.’
Getting in depth
COVID-19 has affected almost every aspect of work on our sites as we try to isolate them from the virus. For example, extensive freight restrictions have been brought in at AGL Loy Yang to ensure that inbound freight has been completely sanitised and/or quarantined.
Freight entry is completely restricted for all personnel – internal and external. For vehicles, only one is allowed onsite for unloading at a time, and the driver must remain within the vehicle cab at all times while unloading occurs.
Inbound freight at Loy Yang is quarantined to ensure any possible surface infections die off
All inwards freight items received are date-marked and moved immediately into a 72-hour quarantine to ensure any surface infections do not persist.
But what if freight is needed immediately? All business-critical items that are required before the 72-hour quarantine period would finish are moved to a separate area and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to ensure that any infectious particles on the freight are thoroughly dealt with and removed.
This cleaning is done right down to an individual packaging level to ensure that no infectious materials make it onto site.
|At a glance: COVID-19 site measures|
There have been a range of measures and controls put in place across our sites: