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The uncertainty and instability the world faces as we respond to the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to exacerbate mental health issues. That’s why BHP is just as vigilant about supporting our people and their families when it comes to mental health as we are about protecting their physical wellbeing.

Though social distancing and self-isolation measures are a vital part of our response to ensuring the health and safety of our workforce, being disconnected from family, friends and work colleagues may have an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

We have implemented a range of initiatives across the company to adapt to the changing environment and keep our people safe, engaged and help build resilience.

Family Connection breaks at Newman

BHP’s Newman East Shutdown team has introduced a new 15 minute “Family Connection” routine for personnel to call home and check in on loved ones during their shifts.

Newman East Shutdown Coordinator Mark Champness said everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 in different ways.

“Personally, I was concerned about flying out for my shift because there was so many unknowns about travel restrictions and lock downs at the time,” Mark said.

“I felt a bit concerned about my family at home, which is safe to assume my team would be feeling the same. So we now take a scheduled break at 8pm, to give everyone a chance to phone home.

“The feedback from my crew has been great. They love the idea, and were shocked because we’ve always been hard on phones. A few of the team are really grateful because they get to call their kids and tell them they are OK.

“And the response around site has been great too, with other teams starting to implement it as well.”

Singapore’s ActiveBHP Challenge boosts mental health and community wellbeing.

BHP’s Singapore Community introduced the ActiveBHP Challenge to encourage employees and community members to maintain a healthy exercise regime.

Running and cycling are ideal self-isolating exercises that allow people to maintain social distancing.

With this in mind, the team opened a group on exercise tracking app Strava that allows people to track their progress.

As incentive, they partnership with local charity Project Dignity to donate a bento box meal worth $7 to front-line healthcare workers and at-risk seniors for every 15 minutes of exercise completed by the team.

Sparsh Deep Singh, a co-founder of the event, said the initiative has proven great for mental health and for the community.

“We found the potent combination of exercising in the real world while helping our host communities was a game-changer for our mental wellness”, he said.

“What blew our minds was this started as a social experiment a week ago but quickly grew into nearly 200 participants across 7 BHP locations putting in 600+ hours of exercise helping meet our goals of 2020 bento boxes.

“Folks from Singapore, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Delhi all joined from sheer word of mouth.”

Such is the program’s success the Petroleum team in Houston is also joining the ActiveBHP challenge. For every 15 minutes of exercise logged by a Petroleum employee or their family, the team will donate $15 to the Houston Food Bank.

Houston’s Virtual Resilience Program

The Health Safety and Environment (HSE) team in Houston has developed a Virtual Resilience Program aimed at protecting staff mental health and wellbeing. It launches this week and provides practical advice and techniques for managing mental health issues.

Paul Kelly, Acting Vice President HSE Petroleum, said the program provides mental health advice tailored to the challenges related to coronavirus.

“The resilience program modules are adapted to accommodate the current challenges many of our people may be facing at home dealing with isolation and juggling work, children, and other loved ones”, he said.

“The constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless and it takes its toll on our mental health and wellbeing.

“It is understandable that our people may be experiencing increased stress and anxiety about themselves or loved ones right now.”

Family connection magnets.

BHP has developed a simple way to help families feel more connected to their loved ones on the frontline.

Craig Butterworth, Principal Integration, BHP, developed BHP’s Family Connection Magnets to list alternative ways family members can make contact with our employees. So far over 4,000 of the magnets are in circulation across Australian and Chilean operations, and they has been adopted by other companies across Western Australia. 

“If someone is working on a machine at the frontline they won't necessarily have their mobile phone on them, meaning they could be out of immediate contact from loved ones for hours at a time”, Craig said.

“The next best course of action would be to contact their supervisor who could pass on a message, or failing that, the site gate house to help track down”

Craig discovered that most employees had not has a conversation with their loved ones on alternate contact points, let alone having the numbers visible at home. The fridge magnets we born so family members could have these numbers in plain sight, as well as details of BHP’s Employee Assistance Provider (EAP).

“BHP’s EAP is not just for employees”, Craig said.

“It is also available to immediate family members, however they are not always necessarily aware that it applies to them as well.”

Craig launched this initiative last year to help the onboarding of new employees at South Flank and Mining Area C in the Pilbara, but he says it is also helping in response to COVID-19.

“The challenges associated with the outbreak means that our employees and their families might be going through some tough times themselves”, he said.

“These magnets put front and centre the opportunities they have to speak to loved ones at site or with the EAP to talk through their problems.”

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