On behalf of the team, we wish to say a heartfelt THANKYOU to Peter Lam and Ethan Schooling, ATC Williams engineers who were working away from their homes during the Covid-19 lockdown. We talk to Peter and Ethan about their experiences below.
First, Allan Watson, CEO, sends this message to both…
“I’d really like to express my appreciation for Peter’s massive commitment over the past three months. We are grateful for his willingness to base himself in north Queensland under the uncertainty of an indefinite timeframe until travel restrictions ease. I know it’s not easy being away from his home in Melbourne for so long, but this effort is so reflective of his character, having completed long term stretches for ATC Williams in different parts of the world over a very long time.We hope that he is able to return home soon. Ethan is a newer member of our team, but with both of us based in the Brisbane office, I’ve seen first hand his fine capabilities. As you will read below, he has shown great commitment in choosing to return to site in central Queensland, away from his family over several rosters during the early weeks of the pandemic, to close out a significant project for ATC Williams. A special thanks to him. I might add that it’s great to now have him back in the Brisbane office.”
During lockdown Peter Lam is working onsite for Glencore near Mackay in Queensland, over 2,000km from his home in Melbourne, Victoria.
Hi Peter, tell us about your current role?
I’m consulting onsite for Glencore in North Queensland, overseeing the construction of a new dam to act as a water storage facility for the mine, and especially providing technical advice related to the earthworks. I’ve built over thirty tailings dams, and this is my fourth water dam.
Why did you decide to stay onsite during lockdown?
When it became apparent just before Easter that travel lockdowns were pending, the mine operator asked me to stay on if I could. I’m supervising the contractors, so my decision to go or stay affected the whole project. I don’t have immediate family needing me to return, which made the decision easier. We’ve had a few wet-weather delays, and further delays would be costly for the client.
How has Covid-19 affected life on and off-site?
The project began in late October 2019 with two swings. We are now on one swing, nine days on and five days off. There are about 35 contractors still on site plus the Glencore people. I’m at the end of five days off now, and I need to do an online Covid-19 Declaration form before I return to the site. I’ll be temperature tested every morning and will make a new declaration as part of the daily sign-in process. The mess has changed too, its now two people at each table for meals instead of six.
In Mackay, life is returning to a normal pace. A few weeks ago, when I was out looking for lunch, I only saw two other people – that was a strange feeling. People are out shopping again now, and most of the restaurants are doing takeaway. I don’t have cooking facilities at the motel, so variety is important. The motel is a nice home away from home, but I do miss cooking myself a simple meal.
You’ve been working onsite all your career, what’s the main difference now?
I started working for ATC Williams in 1992. Back then, we didn’t know about fatigue management. I’d go to a four-month project in Western Australia and be on a 13-day on, 1-day off cycle the whole time. So, I got used to working hard. The 9-5 cycle is very doable compared to those days.
What will you do when you return to Melbourne?
Mow my lawn! Catch up with family and friends. Mostly I’m hoping that travel restrictions will lift, and there will be a new project to start.
Ethan Schooling was required to quarantine during one of his final rosters on site in Central Queensland but committed to return to site to complete his project responsibilities.
Ethan, what’s been your experience onsite with Covid-19?
I was onsite at Moranbah Coal Mine near Mackay nearing the end of a six-month project when the lockdown was announced. The project involved construction quality assurance for the starter walls of a co-disposal area expansion.
We were moved from shared accommodation to mine camps, and I started to feel unwell a couple of days later. I quarantined for three days during which I had a teleconference with a doctor who determined that I didn’t require testing for coronavirus. I went home to Brisbane for two weeks so I could finish the project reports. It turns out I had glandular fever. Once I felt better, I went back to Moranbah for ten days to complete the geotechnical investigation. At Brisbane airport, I was temperature screened, and social distancing was in place on the plane, which was good. Onsite, there are signs everywhere stating it’s a condition of entry that you are showing no virus-related symptoms. There was only three of us doing the investigation, so we were able to distance while doing the work.
How are you finding work from home?
I have access to all the software I need to do work from home. However, some aspects require problem-solving with the team, and we meet at the office for that if needed. The abrupt end to the project after six-months has been strange. I enjoy site work, and I know I’ll be wanting to get back to it as soon as I can. For now, I’m enjoying seeing more of my wife and son.
What’s it like to work at ATC Williams?
I moved to Australia from South Africa in 2019, and I’ve been working for ATC Williams for almost a year now. The people and vibe are great. They appreciate us as staff and value what we bring to the company. I’d have to say that this is the best place I’ve worked at in my career.