Planters are now preparing to travel within the next few weeks for the spring planting season in B.C. and Alberta. Last year the most critical factor in our success was having workers arrive healthy. We need to repeat that in 2021. Here are the best practices to follow.
29 March 2021: Many workers are now preparing to travel to their jobs within the next few weeks. We should remember that the most critical factor in our success in 2020 was having workers arrive healthy for the start of their season. Now in 2021, there are far more active cases and more easily-transmissible variants that make it even more important for us to have a well-planned deployment strategy. To help improve your chances of establishing COVID-free camps, I am providing the following list of best practices for workers travelling to their jobs.
Forestry Safety Advocate
- Establish communication with your workers. Inform them you have a structured plan for starting the season and you need their cooperation to make it work. Every person in the camp is relying on each other to show up to work healthy.
- Instruct workers to prepare themselves for at least 2 weeks (or more) of strict isolation in camps. This means having things to keep them comfortable and occupied in their tents and quarters. Solar chargers for personal devices, extra robust tents and mattresses, reading and entertainment, and other items may be very helpful addition to the usual list of things to bring to camp.
- Ask workers to maintain strict physical distancing from people outside their current bubble and isolate as far as possible for the two weeks prior to coming to work. This is the single most important step that workers can take to protect themselves and other workers from an infection arriving in camp.
- Consider asking workers to provide daily health logs with COVID-19 self-assessments for the 2 weeks prior to work, in order to help verify the steps they take to arrive at work healthy.
- Ask that workers provide written travel plans that the company or their crew boss can review.
- Inform workers of applicable provincial and local restrictions that may affect their travel. This includes restrictions against overnight stays in Manitoba, where a 14-day quarantine continues to apply to all people arriving in the province except for those passing through in a single day on their way across the country. Curfews also remain in affect around Montreal. A list of travel restrictions and advisories in each province can be viewed here: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/provinces
- A template travel letter (linked here) is available to assist workers in case they encounter barriers to their trip. It is unlikely that anyone will be turned back or denied passage through any province. However, the letter may be helpful in the case that they run into problems as a result of an unexpected breakdown that prolongs their stay in one spot, or an overly enthusiastic official. We suggest having employers use this template on their own company letterhead and apply any necessary updates. Note: We ask that only WFCA members include the WFCA logo within the letter, signifying your affiliation to the association. If you are not a member of the WFCA, we respectfully request removing our logo from your letter.
- Instruct workers to avoid all indoor public areas and social visits during their trip to work. This should include ordering take-out food (instead of dining-in), and washing and sanitizing hands consistently after touching common surfaces such as gas-pump handles.
- Ask workers to avoid the use of busses or trains, or any other public transit that lacks air filtration systems.
- If workers are sharing rides to work, ask them to travel with other workers heading to the same camps. Where possible, assist workers in networking with each other to set this up. If workers do travel with people from other camps or companies, ask that they keep a record of who they travel with to help contact-tracing in case any person later tested positive for COVID.
- If workers have been vaccinated in their hometown, ask that they bring documentation of this or at least indicate this to the company. Vaccination does NOT mean that the worker is now exempt from standard COVID precautions, as herd immunity can only be achieved across society – not by individuals and not even by camps. However, it may be important to how many workers are already vaccinated to help guide any effort to provide vaccines to the workforce.
- Instruct workers to arrive at their “start work” point on time, and not to show up days or weeks early. Many northern communities remain concerned about outside arrivals, and some are currently experiencing outbreaks that pose risks to local medical system capacity. Ideally, the company should set a muster point and time for a location away from busy public areas and seek to arrange orderly convoys to their camps.
- Establish a screening system for workers as they arrive. This may include verification of health logs, temperature checks, symptom checks, and potentially COVID-19 tests. Additional information about new rapid-results onsite testing will be discussed at our Thursday meeting.
- Conduct intensive health monitoring in the period immediately following arrival for at least two weeks. This should include strict adhesion to distancing (as possible), use of masks (inside vehicles), and hand-washing. Potential repeated testing may also be available to help crews establish themselves as COVID-free operations and set themselves up for a successful healthy season.