Into the wild: Tree planting in northern Ontario

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Online training at

Tree planterIn early spring, long before the first thaw, hardy souls start getting in shape for their tree planting gig that runs 30 to 40 days over Ontario’s brief tree-planting season in May and June. Of course, it helps if you love to work out of doors, and don’t mind a physically-demanding job battling blackflies and the odd bear to earn some good money.

Shania Twain enjoyed planting trees

Unlike office work, tree planting is known as a rigorous, repetitive job where workers are rewarded for hard physical labour. They’re in good company: Shania Twain and her family used to oversee tree-planting crews for many years. In the early 1980s, Twain worked for her father’s reforestation business. The northern Ontario business employed some 75 Ojibwe and Cree workers. Although the work was demanding, the petite musician enjoyed the solitude of the beautiful natural settings. 

“I loved the feeling of being stranded,” Twain said, according to Shania Twain: The Biography by Robin Eggar. “I’m not afraid of being in my own environment, being physical, working hard. I was very strong, I walked miles and miles every day and carried heavy loads of trees…It was a very rugged existence, but I was very creative and I would sit alone in the forest with my dog and a guitar and would just write songs.” offers wide range of tips for tree planters, a training program by Workplace Safety North available online 24-7, provides general orientation and health and safety training while at the same time meeting tree-planting companies’ due diligence obligations. The easy-to-use Internet-based program gives workers the knowledge necessary to perform demanding work safely, along with quizzes to test knowledge along the way. 

The training program is divided into six modules:

  1. On becoming a tree planter: The rights and responsibilities of workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act; elements of WHMIS and dealing safely with hazardous materials.

  2. The physical side of tree planting: Strain and sprain injury risks and symptoms; the importance of pre-employment and on-the-job physical conditioning; proper nutrition and hydration; the right tools, clothing and protective equipment.  

  3. Injury prevention and first aid: Injury risks and precautions for specific areas of the body; handling and treating injuries; first aid in the wilderness; dehydration and heat exhaustion; preventing and treating blisters, sunburn, cuts and scratches.  

  4. Animals and other natural hazards: Allergic sensitivities to insect bites and stings; safe use of insect repellent; rabies hazards from foxes and raccoons; preventing and handling encounters with bears; hazards of poison ivy and blastomycosis.

  5. Travel and driving safely: Orientation on foot with a compass, topographic map or GPS; safe driving and riding in company vehicles; seasonal travel hazards; ATVs, float planes and helicopters.

  6. Emergency tactics: Safe procedures in case of forest fires or thunderstorms.  

The modules are interspersed with brief quizzes that reinforce key points. A bookmarking feature enables the user to exit a module or segment at any point and automatically return to that point. Upon successful completion of the quizzes in all modules, a training certificate will be issued.

Not all workers are familiar with living and working in the wilds of northern Ontario, so it’s important that employers help prepare them by offering comprehensive information about what to expect and how to work safely as they head out into the wild.

Additional training information

Visit the specific training section for - for companies registering more than 10 participants, volume discounts will apply.  Please contact WSN Customer Care Representatives at to place your training order. Also, please visit

Free Resources

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