Downie Timber adapts operation to COVID-19 restrictions

An essential service, Revelstoke's downtown sawmill adjusts operations to adapt to COVID-19.

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Downie Timber has put safety protocols in place to help protect employees from potential explosure to COVID-19 while at work. The forest products industry is considered an essential service. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer.

Downie Timber is still operating, but it’s far from business as usual. Plant manager Angus Woodman said the company has seen between 15 and 20 per cent of its workforce impacted by COVID-19, and as a result has adjusted operations for employees who are healthy and able to work.

“Our business and the broader forest products industry has been declared an essential service by the government and we take this responsibility seriously,” Woodman wrote in an email to the Mountaineer.

Woodman said Downie has been working closely with WorkSafe BC, the BC Forest Safety Council and others outside the forest sector to arrive at practices, protocols and policies the company believes will allow them to continue operating in safe conditions.

Among these practices are social distancing, hygiene standards and operational adjustments to help employees operate safely. In practice, Woodman said at Downie this includes staggered breaks to ensure self-distancing in common areas, strict hygiene practices in all booth jobs and on mobile equipment, daily janitorial services in all common areas and disinfectant/paper towels positioned throughout the plant where employees can routinely disinfect/clean their work areas.

In addition, all employees are wearing gloves on the operational floor, there are strict protocols in place when trouble shooting issues (such as mechanical or electrical) in Downie plants. Currently the Downie Timber main office is closed to the public and only essential personnel are permitted. Woodman said Downie is encouraging those who can work from home to do so.

“Our message is very simple and direct to all our employees, in that they should feel, and be as safe, at work as anywhere else they go. If we as a company feel that their safety is being compromised then we will stop operating immediately,” said Woodman. “If any of our employee’s do not feel safe at work, or they have developed symptoms, we have made it clear that, without any questions asked, we respect that decision and their job and position will be protected for when they come back. We have been directing those employees that are off to due to COVID concerns to the various federal and provincial financial assistance programs.”

Woodman said Downie is doing whatever is possible to ensure the continued health of its employees while providing a safe work environment.