The Port Kembla steelworks needed to classed as "essential" infrastructure to protect it in the event of a lockdown, according to a peak industry body.
The Australian Steel Institute - which represents the interests of BlueScope and others in the steel supply chain - joined with the Australian Workers Union to urge state and federal governments to pledge to keep the steel industry operational during any lockdown.
In a joint statement the two groups pointed out that the industry directly employed more than 100,000 people and contributed $30 billion to the Australian economy each year.
Also, they pointed out that the Port Kembla steelworks - and other facilities - could not be turned off and on easily.
"There are very significant technical constraints associated with closing down or winding back steel industry operations," the statement read.
"Large, complex, capital intensive heavy manufacturing operations - particularly those involving molten materials - are simply not designed to stop and start.
"The continuous nature of the process necessitates prohibitively expensive chemical and engineering procedures to shut down with commensurate massive restart costs. Additionally, if skilled labour is stood down, it may not be available on restarting."
According to the institute, if critical elements of the steel industry like Port Kembla were shut down it could take months - or even years - to get back up to speed.
In the interim, international competitors could swoop.
"A cessation of domestic steel supply would unintentionally drive importation of equivalent steel products from regions not bound by the same workplace restrictions, which would add to the economic damage and potentially cause permanent shrinkage of the local industry capability," the joint statement read.
The two groups also pointed out steelworks had already implemented strict hygiene measures and they generally had a "low people density" compared to other workplaces.
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