Navigating COVID-19 at Sustainable Timber Tasmania

Article supplied by Steve Whiteley, Sustainable Timber Tasmania

Navigating COVID-19 at Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) is a challenge STT is continually working to meet.

STT established a COVID-19 Response Team in March. The Response Team meets daily to coordinate tasks and communication for the day and to make recommendations for approval and then implementation at STT.

Some of the actions STT has taken includes following advice from the Tasmanian Government around social distancing. This has resulted in changes in practice for our employees, who now travel with one person per vehicle, host most meetings via video-conferencing or tele-conferencing methods and practice social distancing in the field when engaging with contractors, customers and suppliers.

We continue to offer our services to the public – such as permits and licences-, however in the interest of public safety have closed our offices to visitors until further notice. We have closed Permanent Timber Production Zone land (PTPZ) to all recreational activities, including exercise and hunting. We acknowledge the impact this closure has on some members of the community; however, the decision has been made to reduce the movement of people in response to COVID-19.

We have implemented working flexibly arrangements for our employees, and now have employees working from home, in the field and in the office. We have increased cleaning of our facilities and offices and have implemented daily cleaning of vehicles which have a multi-purpose use.

The most important focus we have taken during COVID-19 is communication with our employees, contractors and customers. We have established regular communication with our employees via a dedicated email address and a COVID-19 webpage. This webpage has been updated daily with new information, resources, links and tools relevant to our employees to assist them with implementing new safe work practices, new working arrangements, staying connected to their team, working flexibly, IT support and mental health and productivity reminders. We regularly check in with your employees and around mental health and encourage them to utilise our Employee Assistance Provider if they need to speak with somebody.

We are in regular communication with our contractors, understanding how they are dealing with COVID-19 and what practical measures they have put into place to continue operating safely. We are also in regular communication with our customers to gain an understanding of impact to their businesses from COVID-19. We will continue to maintain communication with our contractors and customers to offer our support and assist them in navigating this uncertain time.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Sustainable Timber Tasmania has continued to successfully implement our work programs. Our planned burning and sowing program has been impacted by changes in practice such as one person per vehicle, daily cleaning of vehicles and social distancing. Our 2020 program has had the most successful start since 2011.

We are grateful to our employees, contractors and customers for their cooperation and working with us to navigate COVID-19.