Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
10 March 2023
Volume 23 Issue 3

Warning: No facts have been harmed in the production of this publication.

Seasonal Workers Ineligible for Paid Sick Leave Rule Complicates Managing Sickness at Work

An on-site hand washing station. Managing basic cleanliness will reduce the risks of sickness in camps and the challenge of managing sick workers who may spread infections.

COVID may be declining. But it is not gone. Still around are the other various communicable diseases that can infect crews too. It is critical then, that workers do not come to work sick. So, as seasonal forestry and reforestation crews start to follow the snow melt into the woods this year, employers need to be vigilant about managing communicable diseases and mindful of the rules that apply to sick workers. BC SAFE Forestry Advocate Jordan Tesluk sees some challenges, particularly since most seasonal workers will not qualify for paid sick leave. “Piece-rate workers without paid sick leave may feel pressured to go to work when sick,” he states in a recent bulletin “Employers should evaluate what they can do to support workers in these circumstances and consider their responsibilities to all parties in the workplace.” At the height of COVID restrictions with full-on industrial camp hygiene measures in place, crews remained remarkably healthy. Not only did COVID not appear, but other viral and bacterial scourges also abated as well. Since the pandemic rules relaxed, so has everyone else, and preventable illness has begun to return to crews. Tesluk makes the point that complacency may be the worst threat to worker well-being when it comes to workplace infections.

Doubts Raised About Bioplastic Flagging

Polylactic acid-based cornstarch flagging may not be as biodegradable as hoped: you may have to cook the molecules for the bonds to breakdown.

The Ministry of Forests is recommending planting contractors hold off on major purchases of cornstarch flagging tape for marking seedlings this year. The bioplastic product appeared on the market last year as a possible replacement for the tons of cheap single-use plastic flagging used by planting crews to keep track of their trees. But recent observations from the field and rough science experiments at home show the flagging remains robustly intact in outside temperatures, sunlight, moisture, and even mild acids. Its resilience is consistent with the general behaviour of polylactic acid the main molecule constituting bioplastics derived from plant sources. According to that research, it may take up to 140 degrees Celsius to breakdown; something only found in commercial composting operations. That the fabric doesn’t biodegrade readily outdoors suggests it may pose a problem in the stomachs of cattle where plastic flagging has appeared in autopsies. More work is needed to ascertain whether this biodegradable tape biodegrades more readily than plastic and if it is digestible in bovine and other grazers’ digestion tracts.

Survey to Poll Extent, Severity, and Risks of Road Deactivation to Forestry Crews

The BC SAFE Forestry Program is asking workers, supervisors, and owners to comment and describe their experiences dealing with deactivated roads in a recently released survey. Here is the gist of it as excerpted from the survey.

Purpose of this survey:

For decades silviculture contractors have found that road access to their worksites in many cases has been deactivated, rehabilitated, or closed after harvesting. This has prevented safe and ready access to worksites for crew, materials, and emergency vehicles. Because of safety concerns about this practice the BC SAFE Forestry Program is surveying the extent, frequency, and types of access hazards operators are encountering in the field. The purpose for the assessment is to make recommendations to reduce the occurrence of these conditions where it is practical and improve safety and productivity for all silviculture crews including tree planting, stand tending, and related survey work. All access conditions except for situations where helicopter access is tendered and specified as part of the work agreement fall under the scope of the survey. The term the survey covers is up to the last five years. Please reply to this survey even if you have never encountered these kinds of access problems to help us better understand their frequency and extent.

Click here for the survey.