Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
27 May 2022
Volume 22 Issue 07

Warning: Some facts contained in this publication may cause readers to form opinions.

Fed Report Says BC Falling Short on Meeting Climate Change Challenges

We need to keep workers like these busy. A forest fuels management crew at work on a wildfire community protection project in the West Kootenay this week. So far, the pace and scale of BC’s response to a changing climate will not meet the increasing environmental and economic challenges emerging across the landscape according to a federal assessment.

British Columbia has yet to commit and coordinate enough resources to meet the risks of a changing climate according to the conclusions of a federal assessment released this month. The Changing Climate: A Regional Perspective cited last year’s heat, drought, fires, and floods as examples of the profound effect climate change is having on our landscape, our economy and well-being. The province’s water resources, forests, agricultural lands, ranges and communities are all at increasing risk as the climate warms. Nevertheless, our province’s climate change efforts lack the significant resources “required to create a level of action that is commensurate with the risks that British Columbia is facing.” On forests, in particular, the assessment noted “limited evidence of proactive adaption within the forest industry” while suggesting forest management climate adaption efforts will be limited due to the “vastness of B.C.’s forested areas.” A very large amount of forested land will have to “adapt through natural processes.” For those of us, who may already see the landscape as a growing threat, this may bring little comfort. Read the full report Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing Our Knowledge for Action and participate in Canada’s National Adaption Strategy go to here.

 

Expanding Role of BCWS Will Create Opportunities for Contractors and Workers

A BCWS crew igniting a prescribed burn this wet spring in the Kootenays. Much more of this kind of forest management activity is expected in order to meet the challenges of climate change. Photo credit B. Stevens.

Notwithstanding the findings of the above regional assessment, BC has adopted the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This framework will play a part in guiding the planning and operations of the BC Wildfire Service under its expanding mandate as an all-hazards, year-round agency. Not only will BCWS respond to emergencies such as floods and wildfires, but it will undertake work to reduce, prevent and recover from these natural disasters. In our forests this may mean implementing fuel reduction programs to protect communities and infrastructure as well as prescribed burning to protect plantations and reduce wildfire spread. It’s in this expanding area of natural disaster risk reduction work that forestry and wildfire contractors will be playing an increasing role said BC Wildfire Service managers in a recent meeting with contractors. In order to assist contractors in remaining fit to their expanding role BCWS announced it had hired consultant Roger Harris to undertake an environmental scan and make recommendations to improve the current service procurement process, standards framework and performance assessment methods used to qualify contractors. Harris is expected to conduct interviews with contractors and BCWS this summer and report in the fall.

 

Going to Town Poses COVID Risk to Planters Safety Advocate Reports

By Jordan Tesluk

The tree planting sector was highly successful in minimizing COVID cases through 2020 and 2021. However, in early 2022, the highly infectious (but fortunately milder) Omicron variants are making their way into camps and crews, showing that there are limits to even the best preventive systems. Multiple companies have reported COVID, ranging from isolated cases to a few larger clusters. Infections have appeared in camps that have been COVID-free for several weeks, indicating that communities may pose a greater risk of infection to worker camps, than camps pose to communities. As a result, some contractors have limited the use of trucks on nights off and limited town trips to the day-off only, in an effort to discourage workers from attending busy bars and restaurants where there is a higher risk of transmission. Contractors are finding that rapid antigen testing, adherence to crew pods, continual health monitoring, and effective hygiene all continue to play a role in limiting the spread of infection. One diligent contractor even reported catching a case of viral gastroenteritis before it spread to the crew; something that may have slipped through and caused widespread illness several years ago.

While WorkSafeBC has indicated compensation claims may be filed for COVID infections without penalty to the employer, a claim backlog means that payouts may take several months to process. All employers are advised to ensure that they are prepared to respond to potential outbreaks, and have ready access not only to medical assistance to guide them in decision-making with affected workers, but also to the resources and facilities they may need to provide isolation and support for a short period of time. The main positive trend is that with effective systems in place, and a workforce with a high rate of vaccination (and to some extent, previous infection) outbreaks are likely to affect only a fraction of any group, and that limiting contact between crews (or pods) and rapid response to reported symptoms can prevent COVID cases from significantly impacting operations. Most importantly, no employers have reported the need to hospitalize any affected workers, and the youth and healthful vigor of the workforces is confining most cases to the mild end of the spectrum.