Media Release – Thursday 23 April 2020

Some of the Green Triangle’s largest timber mills are undertaking mock COVID-19 scenarios to mentally prepare its workforce for a potential corona virus case.

AKD operations, including both Colac and Heywood (Portland Pine Products) have undertaken extensive desktop exercises and full mock simulations, to understand and assess the full impact of a suspected or actual COVID-19 case.

The exercise is a further step in mitigating risk at the major employer which has also increased hygiene measures, implemented strict social distancing including staff working remotely from home, and increased communication channels to ensure the workforce remains fully informed of any potential risks and the current situation.

AKD’s national health and well-being manager Toni Kirkup said the mill had been assiduous in its control methods, taking every step to protect the workforce to ensure they could maintain their roles through the pandemic.

“A full crisis management team has been working around the clock, working directly with managers and supervisors to ensure every scenario is considered. The health and well-being of our workforce is paramount and we thank everyone of our employees for their diligent and enthusiastic response to this exercise,” she said.

“It was important for us to be able to act out the scenario, to mentally prepare the team for what a suspected, or indeed actual case may look like to ensure every staff member knew how to respond and what their responsibility may be. These scenarios highlighted gaps and areas for improvement and further learning in our immediate response plan which we are now improving.

“There is no room for error in this preparation. We need to take every measure to provide and protect our workforce and broader community.”

These measures are acting as inspiration for other businesses in the south-west, particularly in Colac where AKDs efforts have translated to a persuasive social media campaign.

Each of the #KeepColacSafe videos, which are encouraging the community to implement the chief medical officer’s strict measures, have been viewed by more than 1200 people since being launched earlier this month.

“Given the many actions we were implementing within our business, we felt it was important to ensure that the overall community were also adapting similar control measures and applying a high level of importance to limiting the risk,” Ms Kirkup said.

“AKD took the step of reaching out to community and business leaders to identify how we could work together, not only to keep our individual workplaces safe, but our overall community.

“A community forum was held which allowed us to share information and learn from what each other were doing. Given the positive feedback we received from initiating this meeting, we organised for this group to join forces and #KeepColacSafe was hatched.”

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said the timber industry had been setting a high benchmark for COVID-19 control.

“The health and well-being of the 7000 strong work force across the Green Triangle is a priority for the forestry sector, with strict protocols being enforced across the supply chain from nurseries and harvesting operations, to milling and logistics in an effort to protect our whole community,” she said.

“The implementation of flu shots, social media chat groups and online support webinars with the latest advice are further measures being undertaken to provide for the health and well-being of the workforce. It must be highlighted that the efforts of staff implementing these measures has been exemplary in these trying times and we thank each and every individual for their proactive efforts.”