B.C.’s provincial health officer (PHO) has released an order for industrial camps and guidelines to protect people working in the silviculture sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is to help contractors, tree planting operators and their employees reduce the risks of COVID-19.
“B.C. continues to be a leader in the fight against COVID-19, and now is the time to reinforce our efforts to keep people safe and healthy,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Tree planting is crucial to the health of our forests, and we are instituting strict measures based on the PHO's expert direction to make sure that it is done in a way that protects workers and the people of British Columbia.”
On April 23, 2020, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s PHO, issued an order for industrial camps that applies to workers in the agricultural, aquacultural, forestry and resource sectors, as well as those who provide accommodation for these workers. This order sets out prevention, control and inspection protocols for workers and employers.
Every year, about 5,000 tree planters, primarily from B.C. and other Canadian provinces, travel to work in remote camps and communities throughout the province. This year, to reduce and mitigate the risks of COVID-19, all tree planters will be subject to strict screening procedures for COVID-19 symptoms before admission to field camps or community accommodations.
The BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines for those working in the silviculture sector require:
- screening of workers for symptoms or potential COVID-19 exposure;
- added hygiene measures in camps, including handwashing stations;
- training workers on how to stay safe while travelling to camp and to worksites;
- food preparation guidelines;
- limiting travel outside of camp; and
- having at least one infection and control co-ordinator at each site.
“Recent planting completed on the coast shows that when workers and contractors take appropriate steps to make sure health and safety measures are followed, tree planting can safely take place,” said John Betts, executive director, Western Forestry Contractors’ Association. “Our members began implementing additional steps to protect workers and the public very early on, and it is working.”
All tree planting employers are required to implement an infection prevention control plan for work camp locations, including field camps and hotel/motel accommodations, and must submit these plans to the ministry. All forestry camps, accommodations and worksites will be inspected by provincial prevention and control officers to ensure all required health and safety measures are in place. In addition, the Province has implemented on-site security at motels and hotels to ensure tree planters adhere to the PHO’s orders and guidance.
“We have heard from rural/remote communities about wanting to make sure work in communities can continue safely, and that is why we have worked collaboratively to develop these guidelines for tree planting,” Donaldson said. “Additionally, we recently announced a new collaborative framework that will help make sure people living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities in B.C. have access to critical health care they can count on to meet their unique needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.”
The framework was developed through a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and Provincial Health Services Authority. The work is guided by the principles of cultural safety and humility, and adds to work underway by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.
The framework provides flexibility so local leaders in rural, remote and Indigenous communities can adapt it to meet their unique needs. It will be implemented through full engagement with each of the communities’ local leaders.
On March 26, 2020, the Province, in consultation with the PHO, identified jobs and industries deemed as essential to maintaining vital goods and services, and supporting the Province’s ongoing response to COVID-19. This is distinct from essential service designations under the Province's Labour Relations Code.
Forestry and silviculture were included in the list of essential services because they provide a continuous supply of items, such as wood, pulp and paper, and soft-pulp products, which are like those used to make medical supplies, such as protective masks, drapes and screens.
PHO industrial camp order and delegation are available here:
Silviculture guidance document:
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