What You Should Know: Tree Care Businesses and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak.
Updated March 16, 2020
We advise our customers to check back to this page often for updates on actions by Ontario Government and other COVID-19 news or laws that may impact the tree care industry. Stumps “R” Us Official Policies on tree care as an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. The virus has now spread beyond China’s borders to dozens of countries, infecting over one hundred thousand people worldwide as of March 12, 2020. You can read what we know about COVID-19 here. As this virus begins to spread in Canada, businesses, employers, and employees need to be prepared for its potential impacts across the economy and Country. Click here to read the latest guidance on stopping the spread of the coronavirus from the Government of Ontario.
What is being done to fight COVID-19?
Already, the Federal Government has provided billions of dollars to bolster vaccine development, research, equipment stockpiles and provincial and local health budgets as government officials and health workers fight to contain the outbreak by any means necessary.
How Ontario is responding
Ontario is working with its partners in the health care system implementing new rules and a plan to monitor, detect, and if needed isolate any cases of the 2019 COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health is taking several steps to ensure the health and safety of Ontarians. This includes:
- monitoring hospitals for potential cases of the virus in individuals with travel history to areas under a travel health advisory for COVID-19
- adding the 2019 novel coronavirus as a designated disease reportable under Ontario’s public health legislation, enabling local public health units to quickly and effectively take all necessary measures to investigate, complete lab tests and do case and contact management to prevent and control further spread of the infection
- ongoing planning with federal and provincial/territorial partners and readiness to coordinate with other provinces/territories
- through the work of the Command Table, refining and finalizing plans for the implementation of enhanced measures to ensure the province continues to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any scenario,
How to protect yourself
Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre.
There is no vaccine available to protect against the 2019 novel coronavirus, but there are actions you can take to help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses.
Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:
- wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- sneeze and cough into your sleeve
- avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- avoid contact with people who are sick
- stay home if you are sick
Everyone in Ontario should be practicing social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people.
Everyone in Ontario should do their best to avoid close contact with people outside of their immediate families. Close contact includes being within two (2) meters of another person.
What is Stumps “R” Us doing to help slow the spread of COVID-19?
As of Monday, March 16, 2020, will be taking the following stance on doing our part to help slow and prevent any outbreak or spreading of the coronavirus. Here is a set of Questions and Answers on how we will be handling both internal and external working environments.
INTERNAL WORKPLACE POLICIES:
Q: How are we handling absenteeism during this time?
ANSWER: Employees may be absent from work for valid reasons during this time. They may be sick and wanting to mitigate the spread of the virus, or helping another family member who is sick. Employees may also be absent because many schools are canceled, and they need to be home to take care of their children. Understanding this temporary absenteeism is the best way to support our employees.
Q: Is my company requiring a doctor’s note when an employee calls in sick?
ANSWER: At this time the healthcare providers are already overwhelmed with the influx of patients. We suggest you do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work.
Q: How is Stumps “R” Us approaching safety around shared tools and equipment?
ANSWER: Shared tools and equipment should be wiped down with disinfecting wipes after each use, and employees are supplied with gloves and sanitation supplies while out on the job. We discourage workers from sharing as much equipment as possible. Avoid shared water containers and encourage employees to bring enough water for themselves for the day.
Q: How is Stumps “R” Us approaching shared spaces?
ANSWER: Minimal visitation from the general public should enter the office. Only drivers and crew leaders should enter the shop. Any employees who do not need to enter the shop should remain outside in the yard if possible. Drivers and machine operators are to completely disinfect the vehicles often and always at the end of each shift. Office space should be sanitized daily. To prevent employees from coming into close contact with one-another, we may decide to stagger shifts if possible and increase the physical distance between employees.
Q: How do my employees address clients when visiting a worksite?
ANSWER: Customer policies and procedures are in place to ensure the utmost safety for our valued customers. We are asking employees to communicate with customers through the phone when ever possible, while giving them the tools to explain why they are practicing social distancing on the site. We have suspended cash payments and are currently only taking Online payments ensuring there is no potential for your employees to encounter someone who is infected.
Q: How do I address employees who are concerned about pay, leave, safety or their health in the workplace?
ANSWER: Employees are allowed the right of refusal for any work they deem unsafe, without fear of termination. We are granting extra family time where necessary, and taking extra precautions such as more routine cleanings with strong disinfectant are being done regularly. This virus affects us all and need to pull together to put our best foot forward and stay proactive.
What we ask of our Customers to Help us stop the spread of COVID-19?
Our company is doing the utmost to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our clients, our workers, and the community.
We are still offering Tree Care Estimates and as a result, we are asking for your cooperation by taking the following precautions:
- Before a sales call, please mark any trees in question with a ribbon, or whatever you have handy so we can quickly identify work needed to be done.
- Our sales people will not be knocking on your door, please do not go out of your house to greet them, simply be ready to use your phone to answer the sales person’s questions from within your house over the phone.
- If you are able, please be prepared to use Facetime or facebook video, google duo or similar features to help the salesperson understand your tree care needs through a video app.
- Please respond promptly to any tree work related emails or calls if asked.
- In general, you do not need to be present when the crew arrives.
- If you are home when the crew arrives, please stay in your house. If the salesperson or crew leader has any questions, they will call you. Please be prepared to answer the phone if they do call.
- If for any reason, you are outside or otherwise meet our crews in person, please practice social distancing by keeping 3-6 feet away.
Putting Safety First
The safety of your employees and customers is Stump’s “R” Us top priority, and how you respond to health and safety concerns has a direct impact on both employee & customer confidence and morale. As always we put people before profits.
Taking these steps now to educate yourself, to review these new policies and procedures, we believe you will be better prepared for disruptive events like this now, and in the future.
Additional Resources and Guidance
The Ministry of Health has developed an information sheet about the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to inform Ontarians about the virus, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they think they have contracted the 2019 novel coronavirus. The information sheet is available for everyone here.
Joe Winchester – Owner