Greetings Colleagues,

Throughout the 2023 planting season, we have had isolated reports of COVID-19 (and other illnesses) in planting crews that were mostly limited to individual reports. However, upon start-up in the interior, a few companies have reported more significant outbreaks affecting multiple people in the camp or crew. No workers seem to have been seriously impacted as to be expected by the milder variants currently in circulation. However, there have been some significant disruptions for the affected companies trying to get through start-up without their full complement of personnel.

I strongly encourage you to review your communicable disease plans to have the best chance of shielding your crews from COVID-19, viral gastroenteritis, or any of the other usual culprits out there. A link to the current Order affecting industrial camps is provided here, including some of the requirements for all remote resource operations and camps:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/covid-19/industrial_camps.pdf

Guidelines to help companies maintain healthy workplace environments are found here:

Important things to remember with workplace management include:

  • A communicable disease prevention coordinator must be in place for each camp or remote work operation.
  • Workers with symptoms of communicable illness must not be permitted to enter the workplace and pose risks to other workers.
  • Workers are obligated to report symptoms of illness to their employer.
  • High standards of hygiene must be maintained in camps, due to the potential for rapid spread of illness among closely quartered workers.
  • Outbreaks of illness beyond what would not normally be expected MUST be reported to a medical health officer as per Section 23 of the Industrial Camps Regulation. This may include reporting of even smaller clusters of illness where there is the possibility it could spread further.

A few key learning points from speaking with affected contractors include the following:

  • Trucks remain a key vector point, both for COVID-19 and other viruses transferred through airborne droplets AND for stomach ailments caused by lapses in hygiene. KEEP TRUCKS CLEAN, and ask that people wash their hands before getting in trucks. Some contractors have also asked for masks to be worn in trucks for the first shift, particularly by anyone with a slight cough or sniffle.
  • Personal activities just before arriving at camp have been found to be tied to sickness arriving in camp. I suggest appealing to your workers’ commitment to each other, and taking reasonable steps to avoid bringing a virus to camp that impacts other people’s health and work opportunities. While rapid antigen testing does not provide reliable protection against detecting COVID-19, it does provide another option to screen out some potential cases.
  • COVID-19 remains subject to compensation claims through WSBC, and the most current indication from WSBC is that such claims will not count against individual company assessments.
  • Hand washing with soap and water remains central to preventing stomach ailments, and viral gastroenteritis. Ensure your systems are set up to ensure handwashing after using the bathroom before entering food serving and eating areas.