CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) staff are continuing to work and contribute to international research projects while adhering to social distancing policies and changed work practices for national facilities.
Staff Association representatives met with senior management recently for an update on changed work practices across the business unit and specific arrangements to maintain employee safety for staff at astronomy facilities located in Parkes, Narrabri, New Norcia and Murchison.
CASS management confirmed that while most astronomers and other staff able to work from home were making use of those arrangements, special rules and procedures for researchers still working at facilities are now in place.
New rules for facilities
All four major CASS facilities remain open and operational, although visitor centres have been closed. Management state that each facility requires, at any given time, an average of three-quarters of allocated to staff to maintain operations. Staff at New Norcia, for instance, are now working on a rolling three staff roster to maintain basic operations.
Staff who continue to work at the facilities to maintain observing operations must exercise strict social distancing. Where operational tasks don’t permit the minimal 1.5 metre distancing, personal protective equipment must be used.
Emergency plans have been devised, particularly for remote sites such as Murchison, for staff evacuation in the event of any instance of COVID-19 illness. Additional contingencies for Government-mandated lockdown and isolation in situ have also been developed.
The health and safety of all CSIRO staff during the coronavirus pandemic is our paramount concern. However, we do acknowledge the special contribution of those staff who are keeping key scientific infrastructure operational while most employees are working from home.
The Staff Association will continue to engage directly with business unit management to represent the views and concerns of union members as social distancing arrangements continue at CSIRO.