Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips

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Forestry

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Introduction

This tip sheet is intended for employers and workers in the forestry sector, as an overview of recommended controls to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

For general COVID-19 prevention practices for both employers and workers, refer to the CCOHS document “Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19”.

Forestry includes activities such as the production of seedlings, maintenance of forests, harvesting of trees, and reforestation. It provides raw materials used to produce critical products such as personal protective equipment (e.g., medical grade masks and garments), household products (e.g., toilet paper and paper towel) and lumber.

Consider the Risks

  • The risk of contracting COVID-19 increases in situations where people are in closed spaces (with poor ventilation) and crowded places when with people from outside their immediate household. Risk is higher in settings where these factors overlap and/or involve activities such as close-range conversations, singing, shouting or heavy breathing (e.g., during exercising).
  • As a forestry worker, potential sources of exposure include:
    • having close contact with another person who has COVID-19 and
    • touching surfaces or items that have been touched or handled by a person with COVID-19, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Each workplace is unique. Employers need to assess the risks of COVID-19 for their specific workplace and implement appropriate hazard controls using the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative policies, personal protective equipment, and non-medical masks). Use multiple personal preventive practices at once (i.e., use a layered approach) to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
  • Employers should consider the following:
    • How will employees be screened? It is recommended that employees are screened for COVID-19 related symptoms before each work shift.
    • Where do employees interact with co-workers and others at the workplace (contractors, visitors, landowners)? Controls (e.g., barriers, use of non-medical masks) need to be implemented where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing.
    • How close are the physical interactions? The risk of transmission increases with close and frequent contact.
    • How long are the interactions? Evidence indicates that person-to-person spread is more likely with prolonged contact.
    • How is equipment or tools used in the workplace? Are they shared between employees? Ensure that supplies for cleaning and disinfecting are available, and that the disinfectant used has a drug identification number (DIN) from Health Canada.
    • Where will employees be taking their breaks and eating meals? Ensure that physical distancing measures are in place.
    • How will workers be transported to remote areas? Passengers should maintain physical distancing or have other controls in place (e.g., wearing non-medical masks).
    • Are workers in remote areas staying in work camps? Workers should be placed into “work cohorts” and minimize interaction with other workers.
    • Do we have a safety plan? The safety plan should be specific to the workplace and outline the controls implemented to protect employees.

Vaccine

Travel from Other Provinces or Territories

Some forestry work (e.g., tree planting) is seasonal with employers hiring workers from across Canada. Below are some tips related to travel:

  • Some provinces or territories have specific quarantine requirements for inter-provincial or inter-territorial travel. Refer to the Government of Canada website “Provincial and Territorial Restrictions” and comply with any applicable quarantine requirements.
  • Employers should provide workers with instructions on how to travel safely (e.g., minimizing contact with members of the public, disinfecting hands after refueling, wearing a non-medical mask if taking a flight).
  • Ask workers to create and submit a travel safety plan that outlines their method of transportation, stops that will be taken, and precautions that will be followed.
  • Workers should continuously monitor themselves for COVID-19 related symptoms during travel.
  • Workers should also create an exit travel plan that outlines how they plan to return home at the end of the season (or if leaving early).
  • • Employees should be strongly discouraged from non-essential travel outside of Canada, and employees returning to Canada must follow the applicable quarantine and isolation requirements. See the Government of Canada website “Travel Restrictions, Exemptions and Advice” for additional information.

Communication

  • Employers should provide clear information and instruction to their workers about the hazards of COVID-19 and what to do to protect themselves and others.
  • COVID-19 specific worker training should include safety measures and procedures, physical distancing, proper hygiene practices, and monitoring and reporting symptoms.
  • Encourage employees and contractors to report and discuss any concerns related to COVID-19 to their supervisor or employer immediately, so that additional precautions can be put in place where required. Employees can also report concerns to their health and safety committee or representative.
  • Ensure workers know who to call if COVID-19 related symptoms develop.
  • Post signage throughout the job site, including any work camps, as a reminder about the precautions to follow (e.g., hand hygiene, physical distancing).
  • Provide mental health support resources to all employees.
  • Communicate with any interested stakeholders (e.g., landowners, local community leaders) about the COVID-19 precautions being taken.

Screening

  • Consider asking screening questions to workers, before each work shift, using a checklist from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) or your local public health authority.
  • Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms should stay home. If they are at work and develop symptoms, they need to wear a medical mask (or if unavailable a well constructed and well fitting non-medical mask), advise their supervisor and return home immediately (preferably not by public transit). They should also contact their local public health authority.
  • Develop procedures for contacting local public health authorities for further advice in the event of a positive COVID-19 case. If the case is work-related involving a worker, additional notifications will be required (e.g., the government health and safety regulator and worker compensation board for your province or territory).
  • The most common symptoms are:
    • New or worsening cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Temperature equal to or over 38°C
    • Feeling feverish
    • Chills
    • Fatigue or weakness
    • Muscle or body aches
    • New loss of smell or taste
    • Headache
    • Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
    • Feeling very unwell
    • Skin changes or rashes (young children).
  • Symptoms can vary from person to person and within different age groups.
  • Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure. Some people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms.
  • Older adults, people of any age with chronic medical conditions or who are immunocompromised, and those living with obesity are at risk for more severe disease and outcomes from COVID-19.
  • A screening checklist should also be used for any visitors, contractors, or landowners who may enter the workplace (including work camps). Record the names and contact information of all workers and visitors, to assist with contact tracing by the local public health authority if needed. Make sure that privacy is protected, and that the information is stored in a safe and secure manner.
  • Develop procedures for contacting local public health authorities in the event of a positive case. If the case is work-related involving a worker, additional notifications will be required (e.g., the government health and safety regulator and worker compensation board for your province or territory).

Reducing Potential Exposure in the Workplace

  • Promote and encourage employees to work remotely, if possible. Provide ergonomic support and resources for employees setting up home offices.
  • Eliminate non-essential work travel for employees.
  • Prohibit nonessential visitors from the workplace (including work camps).
  • Post signage to keep members of the public away from the work site.
  • Discourage unnecessary physical contact such as handshakes (prohibited on some sites).
  • Limit the sharing of tools and equipment (e.g., chainsaws) as much as possible and where not possible in the case of mobile equipment (e.g., feller buncher) provide cleaning supplies to be utilized after each use.

Physical Distancing

  • Keep the greatest physical distance possible (at least 2 metres) from people outside your immediate household (co-workers, contractors, visitors, and landowners).
  • Stagger shift start times and breaks.
  • Hold meetings and training sessions in small groups and maintain physical distancing.
  • For indoor work (e.g., tree nurseries, work in camp buildings) consider:
    • Organizing the work to ensure physical distancing can be maintained (e.g., workers in greenhouses working in separate areas to maintain physical distancing).
    • Reviewing how specific activities are conducted (e.g., packaging and preparing seedlings for transport) to determine if there are any situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Implement appropriate controls (e.g., installation of barriers) for these situations.
  • For outdoor work (e.g., forest maintenance, harvesting, and reforestation):
    • Examine the activities conducted in the workplace and determine if there are any situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g., meal and break times, shift changes, equipment maintenance and repair tasks that require two people to lift or move parts).
    • Determine if there are any areas on site (e.g., log landing areas) that are congested and where physical distancing requirements might be difficult to maintain.
  • Create rules for any work that requires workers to be within two metres of each other, this could include the use non-medical masks (surgical masks for some sites).

Ventilation

  • Ensure that any indoor work (e.g., at tree nurseries, at work camp buildings, etc.) is conducted in a space that is well ventilated.
  • Increase the amount of fresh air (e.g., open windows) wherever possible.
  • For buildings with a HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system:
    • Ensure that the HVAC system is operating as intended.
    • Ensure preventative maintenance for the HVAC system is conducted according to manufacturer's instructions (e.g., regular filter changes and inspection of critical components).
    • In consultation with a HVAC specialist, determine if it is possible to make any enhancements to the HVAC system. For example:
      – Running the system for 2 hours at maximum outside airflow before and after the building is occupied.
      – Using as much outside air as permitted by the HVAC system.
      – Increasing the filter efficiency of HVAC units, within system capabilities.
  • For additional information on ventilation, please refer to the Government of Canada website: “COVID-19: Guidance on indoor ventilation during the pandemic” and CCOHS resource “Indoor Ventilation”.
  • During group transportation, increase the amount of fresh outside air entering the vehicle by opening the windows (weather permitting) and setting the ventilation to outside air. Avoid using the recirculated air option in the vehicle when transporting workers.

Personal Hygiene

  • Provide portable handwashing stations in areas accessible to workers. Ensure all employees know where the facilities are located.
  • Refer to local health and safety regulations regarding the minimum number of wash facilities that are required at temporary or remote workplaces. Consider adding additional wash stations due to COVID-19.
  • Provide employees with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean your hands when arriving and leaving work, before and after travel, after touching surfaces touched by others, before and after eating, etc.
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or a tissue. Dispose of tissue immediately, then wash or sanitize your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed or un-sanitized hands.
  • Reduce the amount of paper documentation being exchanged between workers (e.g., load slips, receipts for deliveries, company policies, business cards). Consider using digital or electronic methods to exchange documents. If this can’t be avoided, wash or sanitize hands after handling documents.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Viruses can remain on objects for a few hours to days depending on the type of surface and environmental conditions.
  • Create and provide a routine cleaning and disinfecting checklist for the workplace.
  • Operators of forestry mobile equipment (e.g., skidders, feller bunchers), need to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the equipment, before and after each shift and between use by different operators (if applicable). Examples of frequently touched surfaces include: the inside of the cab, dashboard, operator controls, seat, inside / outside door handles, and keys / remote starters.
  • If using an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces (e.g., seat, handle grips) as well as any shared personal protective equipment (e.g., helmets) after each use.
  • Ensure surfaces shared by workers (e.g. surfaces on tools, surfaces in washrooms, eating areas, trailers, etc.) are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Use household or commercial disinfectants to destroy or inactivate viruses and bacteria. 
  • Use a disinfectant with a drug identification number (DIN).  This number means that it has been approved for use in Canada.
  • Workers should be trained on the safe use of the cleaning chemical. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, product’s label, and (if applicable) safety data sheet for safe use instructions.
  • Provide workers with training on cleaning and disinfecting procedures, adequate supplies, and access to required personal protective equipment.

Wearing Masks

  • Wear a well-fitted and well-constructed non-medical mask when:
    • you’re in a shared space (indoors or outdoors) with people from outside of your immediate household
    • advised by your local public health authority
  • At meals, keep masks on as much as possible, and only take it off when eating and drinking.
  • Ensure the requirements for non-medical mask use set by your local public health authority are followed.

Work Cohorts

  • Depending on the nature of the work, the employer may consider creating cohorts of workers (teams, crews).
  • Cohorts should operate as a unit, and work, travel, eat and stay together at the same work camp (if applicable).
  • Each cohort should stay physically distant from other cohorts and should not socialize with other cohorts.
  • The use of cohorts helps reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and helps with contact tracing if a positive COVID-19 case is found in the workplace.

Group Transportation

Employers who provide group transportation for workers working in remote areas, need to implement additional precautions. Below are some tips:

  • Assess the number of workers being transported at any given time and employ measures to ensure physical distancing between workers is maintained. This may require using multiple vehicles, larger vehicles, or having multiple trips with fewer employees.
  • Workers should be screened for COVID-19 related symptoms before being transported to the worksite.
  • All drivers and passengers should wear non-medical masks while riding in a group transport vehicle.
  • Passengers should be spaced apart as much as possible, such as assigned seating in a staggered pattern.
  • Consider isolating the driver’s area from the passenger compartment with a physical plexiglass barrier. Make sure the barrier does not create a safety hazard, such as reducing the driver’s visibility, hindering access to controls, or slowing emergency exit of the vehicle.
  • Ensure that physical distancing is used where workers gather to board vehicles.
  • Allow for enough time for workers to disembark the vehicle to allow for adequate physical distancing and to prevent crowding.
  • Employers should ensure that high-contact surfaces (e.g., door handles) within the vehicle are cleaned at the start of each day and throughout the day.
  • Determine if your jurisdiction has any requirements or guidelines about the number of workers permitted in a commuting vehicle at a time.

Work Camps

Since forestry work is often located in remote areas, some workers need to live in camp facilities (e.g., tents, trailers, cabins) or motels for extended periods of time. Some tips are:

  • Determine if your province or territory has any specific requirements related to work camps. For example, British Columbia has implemented an “Industrial Camps” Order (July 2, 2020) that requires:
    • Developing and implementing an Infection Prevention and Control Protocol
    • Providing a rapid response if a worker develops symptoms of COVID-19
    • Ensuring that a worker with symptoms is self-isolating and support is provided
    • Appointing an Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator
    • Arranging for a Health Officer or Provincial Infection Prevention and Control Officer to inspect the accommodation, worksite, and vehicles
    • For additional information refer to British Columbia’s “Industrial Camps” Order.
  • Some provinces and territories (e.g., Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon) have guidance documents for work camps. Review available guidance material.
  • Ask workers to monitor for COVID-19 related symptoms and complete a daily health log, for 14 days prior to arriving at camp.
  • Encourage workers to minimize contact with people from outside their immediate household, for 14 days prior to arriving at camp.
  • Pre-screen all workers (camp workers and camp residents) for COVID-19 prior to arriving at camp, and complete daily screening.
  • Any worker with symptoms should be isolated from the rest of the workers. Provide a space for the worker to isolate (e.g., a room or a tent with a separate entrance) and a separate washroom and shower that is only used by that worker. Deliver meals to the outside of the room of any worker in isolation.
  • All camps should have infection control supplies available on site.
  • Essential camp visitors should not have access to the physical infrastructure of the camp (e.g., kitchen, shower facilities, sleeping areas) unless necessary.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events.
  • Have workers stay at camps, as much as possible, during their days off and avoid visiting the local community.
    • If possible, arrange for all supplies to be delivered to the camp.
    • If it is necessary to travel into a nearby community, implement a “town order” method for buying goods for workers, and designate a shopper for the camp.
    • Ask workers to try and pack any essentials (e.g., toiletries, medications) that they will need for the season.
    • Have a relationship with a laundromat in the local community and assign a specific person to bring the camp’s laundry to town.
  • For meals:
    • Discontinue buffet service.
    • Remove shared food/condiment/utensil stations.
    • Do not share food, unwashed eating utensils and beverage containers.
    • Stagger mealtimes or increase hours of availability when practical.
    • Remove/rearrange dining tables to maintain physical distancing.
    • Place tape or other markings on floors to maintain physical distancing.
    • Ensure that kitchen staff are following safe food handling protocols.
  • For sleeping areas:
    • Provide private sleeping quarters wherever possible (e.g., individual tents).
    • Arrange shared sleeping quarters so that beds are at least 2 metres apart and the workers sleeping position is head to toe where possible.
    • If beds can’t be placed two metres apart, use temporary barriers between beds, such as curtains, to prevent droplet spread while sleeping.
  • Encourage workers to rest, eat a balanced diet, and stay in contact with friends and family through phone calls, social media, texts, or e-mail.
  • Employers should consider providing cell boosters, charging stations and Wi-Fi, when possible, to allow workers to communicate with friends and family.
  • Workers should bring extra books and movie / TV show downloads to camp.

For further information, please refer to the CCOHS tip sheet “Work Camps”.

COVID Alert App

  • Consider installing the COVID Alert App on your phone. This app is designed to let Canadians know whether they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The app maintains your privacy; it does not record or share your geographic location.

Evaluate Controls

  • Regularly review the adequacy of the controls implemented and make improvements as necessary.
  • Determine if there are any new hazards created by any of the changes implemented at the workplace. For example, if workers staying at camps can’t go into town on days off, what can be done at camp to promote employee wellness? Review and adjust programs as necessary (also, constantly monitor for changes in regulations).

Additional Considerations

  • This tip sheet provides information of a general nature. It is not intended to address specific circumstances at your workplace.
  • Additional controls will be required depending on the specific workplace and the types of activities conducted within the workplace.

It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.

For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Note that this guidance is just some of the adjustments organizations can make during a pandemic. Adapt this list by adding your own good practices and policies to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information is changing rapidly, local public health authorities should be consulted for specific, regional guidance. This information is not intended to replace medical advice or legislated health and safety obligations. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.

Document last updated April 16, 2021