For an essential worker, there's no such thing as lockdown

26 May 2020



From working together to working at a distance, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a lot for any essential worker to get their head around, especially when you’ve only been on the job for a short time. Alyssa Edmunds, our Cadet Hydrographer, who is well known for getting stuck in and having a go said, “It’s been fun to get in and have a go on my own.”

Alyssa Edmunds - Cadet Hydrographer

 

Alyssa is part of our team based at Gowrie Park. She travels to remote waterways to check rain gauges and water level instruments, to measure inflows from rivers and streams into our lakes. “We are the caretakers of the water, making sure that all inflows and lake levels are measured accurately, so our spot traders back at headquarters know what they are working with.”

 

Before the COVID-19 restrictions were in place crews travelled in vehicles together. Since the pandemic crews have been split up and they’re now travelling to sites individually in an effort to comply with social distancing. For Alyssa, who’s still learning the ropes, going solo has sped up the learning process.

 

In early May, the North-West Coast (where Alyssa lives) was in lockdown. “As an essential worker, I still get to go out on the occasional field trip. But we then have to isolate for five days before we can head back out to our work area. When you're on the road, whether you're stopping for fuel or pulling in to buy something to eat, it's hard not to worry about contact,” said Alyssa.

 

"Staying focused on the job stops you becoming overwhelmed. Embrace change. Don't put up a wall. It only creates more complications and adds to your stress load."

 

Alyssa was stopped at a COVID-19 roadside police check when returning from a field trip. “Seeing police pull people over was pretty crazy. The police could see I was travelling in a Hydro Tasmania vehicle with all my equipment. They asked what business I was on and then I was on my way. Still it was all quite confronting,” she said.

 

Precaution taken by teams include organising (in advance) someone to travel from Hobart when an extra set of hands is needed on-site. Arriving on-site, all safety precautions are followed. “We can’t be closer than 1.5m to anyone. Which can be quite hard, especially when it usually takes two people to move equipment around,” said Alyssa.

 

Before the pandemic, Alyssa planned trips two days in advance, got approval from her manager and travelled to sites carrying out routine inspections and maintenance. “We used to just jump in the car and head out to site, but with the current restrictions we now plan three-to-six weeks in advance,” said Alyssa.

 

Everything is planned from her home office and then Alyssa heads to Gowrie Park to gear up before heading out. “We spend a fair bit of time planning. We contact data managers and Dam Safety to find out what sites we should prioritise. For now, we're only visiting sites that have a high priority on them. They may need an instrument replacement or something has broken and needs repair, so our field trips have slimmed back quite a bit,” said Alyssa.

 

"Fewer visits mean less manual-read data, so we will be missing manual data plots from those sites we can't visit."

 

With extra processes and approvals, comes more paperwork and emails, and spending more time in her home office getting field trips underway. Alyssa has found sitting at a computer quite challenging, so she plans frequent breaks. “I always take breaks when I'm working at home, it's that sort of mental break you need. Having a field break every now and then helps too. It brings back that sense of normality we had before COVID-19.”

 

"For me, exercise has been a big help. It's just a relief for all the things building up. It helps get you in the right mindset."

 

“It's quite a process to get your head around at the moment, but it will get easier. When restrictions are lifted a little and we can travel the state more freely, we're going to have a few sites to visit.”

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