Is your company an essential business? It depends

The Department of Homeland Security issued guidance on specific industries last week that it considers essential during the coronavirus pandemic. That guidance lists the forest products sector in the Food and Agriculture section.

The following language is included: Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products.
As pointed out by the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, this DHS document is only guidance and states can impose different standards.

The National Association of Manufacturers has a document that outlines many of the new orders affecting manufacturing in general. This doesn’t break out woodworking companies, but businesses in each state can get an idea of what is happening in their area.

Stay-at-home orders have been issued in New York, California, Illinois, Ohio and a number of other states. Recently, Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia have issued stay-at-home orders that use federal guidelines for essential businesses. Maryland and Massachusetts have adopted similar guidelines with some modifications.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations March 19, to slow the spread of the virus. Businesses in building construction, veneer plywood and engineered wood product manufacturing, and other wood product manufacturing were ordered to close.

Household and institutional furniture and kitchen cabinet, office furniture and fixtures and other furniture-related product manufacturing were ordered to close. Sawmills and wood preservation in Pennsylvania were not ordered to close. Also, pulp, paper and paperboard mills, and converted paper product manufacturing were permitted to remain open.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, companies in North Carolina now have a channel to pre-emptively apply for an "essential" business designation. Companies should email [email protected] with the following information: Business Name; Point of Contact (including name, email, phone number and address); Nature of their business and why they are critical to continue operations; Business website (More details in the tracker).

NAM’s state partner in Minnesota has opened a survey for companies to compile essential business information for them to use to shape with the governor.

Oregon’s essential wood products industry will continue to operate under an executive order issued March 23 by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The order allows all but a handful of specifically listed businesses to continue operating as long as social distancing and disease prevention protocols are in place and enforced. By nature, the wood products industry accommodates social distancing, and Roseburg has taken additional steps to protect the health and safety of its team members.

The timber and wood products industry accounts for 60,000 jobs in the state of Oregon. Roseburg has seven plants, two administrative offices, more than 400,000 acres in timberland, and a pulp chip export facility in the state, employing 2,400 people directly and supporting hundreds more indirectly.

According to the Bluewater Wood Alliance, the Ontario government took new steps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus by asking non-essential workplaces to close. Some businesses can continue operations, but only if companies can maintain their social distancing and sanitizing practices to maintain a safe workplace for their employees. Companies are asked to use their best discretion for their situation. 

In Quebec, cabinet manufacturing is considered non-essential. All non-essential businesses must remain closed until April 13 in the province.

In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills on March 24 ordered all non-essential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact. The order specifically excludes businesses that provide essential services including, but not limited to: food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, and construction. Businesses not listed may request designation as an essential business at The order is in effect until April 8 at 12 a.m.





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About the author
Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected].