Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
1 April 2021
Volume 21 Issue 4

Warning: Facts and fact variants contained in this edition may increase the spread of information

BC Provincial Health Officer
COVID-19 2021 Order Pending for
Planting Camps and Crews

World pandemic 2021: shouldering another forestry field season of COVID-19.

With a third wave rising as we head into our second pandemic planting season the WFCA held its first COVID-19 contractor update call Thursday outlining changes it expects to see in a pending BC Provincial Health Officer Class Order for silviculture industrial camps and crews and related sectors. Based on recommendations the association has made to the PHO the updated law is expected to contain all the provisions and requirements announced last April regarding social distancing, separating crews from communities, and responding to outbreaks. But it will allow employers more flexibility for pods and social distancing once self-contained crews have remained symptom-free beyond a minimum two weeks subject to a risk assessment. This provision is dependent on camps’ and motel crews’ vigilance in maintaining separation from the communities they work around and travel through. With the increased risk of infections reaching camps, the WFCA expects a higher standard of care, consistent with laws set in the Northern Health Region, to require employers to have medical, nursing and professional support available to manage any cases. This reflects practices many contractors had in place already last year. With tree planting’s young worker demographic particularly vulnerable to recent COVID-19 variants the WFCA’s best practices (linked here) around reducing socialization and monitoring symptoms prior to reporting to work will likely be consistent with expanded requirements under employers COVID-19 infection prevention protocol. Coast crews have been planting as much as recent snow will allow for over a month. The first Interior crews will be working some low elevation sites in a week.

Sector to Work on Testing and Vaccinating Planters

BC Forestry Safety Advocate Jordan Tesluk will work with Iridia Medical, a private medical services provider who worked with the sector last year, to explore ways to test and vaccinate workers on site this spring. Rapid antigen testing now available through certified testers could serve to reliably identify asymptomatic, but infectious workers reporting for work. It is less reliable with symptomatic workers. Nevertheless, it could enhance the effectiveness of screening workers as part of an employer’s COVID-19 prevention protocols. Vaccinating essential workers with the Astrazeneca vaccine has been suspended. Nevertheless, the WFCA has been working with BC authorities to recognize planting crews as priority immunization candidates, due to their working in congregate settings, once vaccines are available. Both these possibilities could increase the chances of keeping crews virus free. But they would not be replacements for the requirements of any Orders from the Provincial Health Officer. 

Remembering Ron Elder

Ron and Iola, taken during a tour of the Sylvan Vale Nursery back in 1998. Photo Gary Scriven

We remember nurseryman Ron Elder telling us at WFCA conferences and workshops, “We are growing you great seedlings.  Why don’t you plant them better?” His good sense, his good humour, and his always available expertise had a huge effect on how we now actually do plant trees in this province. He taught us how the organic F layer of soil was critical to the survival and performance of seedlings; correcting years of misguidance on the best place to plant a tree and how to do it. As one planter said, “He was helping change the way of planting from screefing the pit of despair to planting using the organic layer. Happy planters. Happy trees.” Our thoughts, of course, now go to his wife Iola and his family upon hearing of Ron’s recent death. But we can find solace in seeing how one good man could benefit so many of us in forestry and life.