Babine Forest Products taking every precaution for employees

Babine Forest Products will try to keep running as long as possible because of the effect that layoffs would have on employees, communities and businesses they’re connected to. (Lakes District News file photo)

While the lumber industry has seen a number of lay-offs in the past few months because of COVID-19 social distancing regulations, Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake Forest Products are still holding up well.

Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates, which owns both Decker Lake and Babine mills, said despite looming setbacks with COVID, he’s been able to keep everyone around him employed so far. But he can’t predict how long that will last.

“As you know, with the Coronavirus health crisis and likely upcoming recession, the lumber business will be dramatically affected. As the effect on our customers and business become known, there is certainly some risk that all our sawmills in North America could see some production curtailments,” said Zika.

When asked about the COVID19 Zika replied, “Every precaution is taken at the mill site to ensure employees are safe and obiding with the COVID-19 recommendations.”

Zika said it’s part of the companies personal agenda to keep running as long as possible because of the effect that layoffs would have on employees, communities and businesses they’re connected to. But they can only operate if there’s a demand from customers, he added.

Governments across North America have recognized that sawmills are essential businesses that need to keep operating to provide critical shelter and other products in this time of crisis. On March 13 Hampton sent out a new policy to all our sawmills in an effort to keep all our employees safe. This policy is centered around restricting plant access, distancing and conditions on when employees should come to work versus stay home or get tested.

“Since that time we have been working with COFI and the provincial government in British Columbia to ensure our detail processes and procedures at our Burns Lake sawmills are up to date and consistent with current best practices. A COVID-19 Policy has been developed and implemented at both Babine and Decker that exceeds Provincial guidelines. Within that policy we also state that any employee who is experiencing anxiety, stress or is feeling uncomfortable being at work due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic should notify their supervisor. Human Resources is also involved to monitor the policy and answer any employee questions.

To date, we have been very fortunate that no Hampton employees have tested positive for the COVID-19. We will continue to update policies and processes to keep our employees safe during this difficult time.”

Lakes District News recently reported that Canfor shut down a lumber mill in Houston, and its Plateau operation outside of Vanderhoof. This was in response to COVID-19 fears and the need for social distancing between employees.

The company has said the closure will last from March 30 to April 17.

Other mills were affected, as well. Isle Pierre will be closed for three weeks, while Radium and Elko mills will be closed for two.

Canfor’s statement about the closure said the global demand for forest products was down due to COVID-19 and effects of the disease also disrupted supply chain networks. Hundreds of workers were affected by the Houston closures.

Further, even though COVID-19 created new problems, the past several years have not been as good as years before that, seeing temporary closures and cuts in worker hours. Canfor was already on a reduced work-week when COVID-19 struck, being opened only four days per week, as of last fall.

Canfor’s Canadian lumber production will be cut by a total of around 70 million board feet, said the statement. And their Sweden operations are suffering, too.

“This is primarily in response to the lockdown announced in Britain, which has resulted in a suspension of UK bound shipments and a partial redirection of product to other global markets,” said Canfor’s statement.

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