Media Release – Friday 24 March 2020

Health and well-being a focus for forestry sector during Covid-19 pandemic

Extended hours between mill shifts, staff members travelling and working in isolation and set-up of strict sanitation stations are just some of the measures being undertaken by the Green Triangle forest and timber industry to maintain operations throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said the health and well-being of the 7000 strong work force was a priority for the sector, with strict protocols being enforced across the supply chain from nurseries and harvesting operations, to milling and logistics.

“Mitigating risk is a priority for the Green Triangle forestry sector as it responds to these unprecedented events,” Ms McKinnon said.

“Whilst these are trying times, the sector is being proactive by changing its workflows and acting on the advice of the chief medical officer to provide for the safety and well-being of its entire workforce.

“Work has included extending the break period between shift changes at local mills to ensure employees do not come in contact, additional cleaning is being undertaken in addition to the implementation of new sanitation standards for employees.

“Staff are also being separated with the creation of isolated work stations, with some remotely working from home, whilst those who work in forest are travelling in separate vehicles or using digital technologies such as skype to communicate from infield.”

Ms McKinnon said the impacts of an industry shutdown would be unrecoverable, noting every effort was being made to accommodate workforce needs into the future.

“The Green Triangle forestry sector plays an instrumental role in not only the local economy but indeed the states and nation supplying $1.5 billion in economic output. The Hub commend both the State and Federal Governments’, in particular our local parliamentarians, for duly recognising the sector as an essential service which must remain operational during this crippling pandemic,” she said.

“The demand for toilet paper alone has highlighted the community’s reliance on the sector which will have further pressure placed on it with growing domestic demand for tissue, packaging and construction material in the short term.”

Green Triangle Forest Products (GTFP) managing director Laurie Hein said the local forestry sector was unique given many of the workforce lived and worked cross border and would be both professionally and personally impacted by the South Australian border shutdown.

He said GTFP’s plantation estate straddled the border, split approximately half in Victoria and South Australia.

“The border closure announcement has caused much confusion and anxiety for our internal and external workforce, most of whom are required to cross the border daily to undertake their work,” he said.

“Importantly government have recognised the invaluable role these workers, in particular in freight and logistics, play in keeping our economy moving.

“It is pivotal that these workers, and indeed us all, maintain social spacing and strict hygiene to ensure any risk of the virus being transferred is minimised. It is an advantage that the isolated nature of the forestry and logistics trade is aiding the industry to achieve this objective.”