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Tasmania urges government to include forest products as essential

The forest industry in Tasmania has written to the Tasmanian Minister for Resources Guy Barnett urging the Government to include Tasmania’s forest products industries as an essential service, should further restrictions on what businesses can operate be required to contain the spread of COVID-19. Source: Timberbiz

Tasmanian Forests and Forests Products Network said that it was important to understand the breadth of essential services and products which the forest and forest products industries provide, some of which are  experiencing record demand as a result of COVID-19, and how the continued supply of these vital products is contingent on the continuation of the whole  forest products supply chain.

Australian forest products industries supply essential products and services including:

  • Manufacturing toilet paper, tissues, face masks, sanitary products and other paper products experiencing record demand;
  • Cardboard packaging for supermarket and retail deliveries, including pharmaceuticals;
  • Food and beverage packaging;
  • Wooden pallets for supermarkets and other retailers’ distribution operations;
  • Timber for housing and building construction a sector prioritized for continuation by the Tasmanian Government;
  • Manufacturing of newspaper for most of Australia’s metropolitan and regional newspapers, which are an essential source of information for the community, particularly older Australians;
  • Supply of wood residues to the agriculture sector, essential for food production such as McCain’s in Smithton, Greenham Abattoirs, Swift Abattoirs, Quinns (chicken farms, dairy farmers (sawdust, chips, shavings for calf shed bedding) etc.

These vital products and services require the continuation of the whole forest products supply chain. For example, the manufacturing of cardboard and food packaging requires the continued harvesting of softwood plantations, and the manufacturing of wooden pallets necessitates the continued harvesting of native hardwood forests.

Furthermore, these harvesting operations are only commercially viable if high-value timber is also harvested, which is used to produce structural timber for the construction market, for example.

The forest industry in Tasmania has been proactive in implementing risk mitigation measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 across its supply chains and continues to act in accordance with the latest health advice.

Tasmanian Forests and Forests Products Network said that the industry is highly automated, making it possible for employees to practice social distancing in accordance with the Government’s health guidelines.

Furthermore, its member companies have adopted new best practice sanitation and hygiene measures and where possible, retooled workspaces, split and staggered shifts to allow more distance between workers.

In the forests industry workers generally work in isolated areas and in small groups that can be managed with the appropriate protocols in place to control the risk of spread.

Technology allows forestry staff to work remotely and offices can be closed if they are not already and staff work from home. Most mills can be operated with staggered breaks to minimise contact and minimising the number of operators on each machine or plant item.

These features will ensure that the risk of infection and passing on of infection is minimized and is low risk due to the almost natural social distancing inherent in the industry.