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Health & Safety

Health & Safety Legislation

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have a webpage dedicated to Tree Work Health and Safety which gives guidance on legal obligations and information on forestry related accidents and how to avoid them.

The HSE website also has a very helpful page ‘Getting started’.  This guides business through the whole process of identifying what Health & Safety information you are legally obliged to document and make available to employees, clients etc. and how to develop this information. In general, employers must:

  • make the workplace safe and eliminate or control risks to health;
  • ensure plant and machinery are safe and that safe systems of work are set and followed;
  • ensure articles and substances are moved, stored and used safely;
  • provide adequate welfare facilities;
  • give workers the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary for their health and safety;
  • consult workers on health and safety matters.

The law says you must train your employees and contractors to work safely, and clearly instruct them in their duties.  Everyone who works for you, including self-employed people, needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. So you need to train them to be sure they know:

  • what hazards and risks they may face;
  • how to deal with them; and
  • any emergency procedures.

Health and safety training should take place during working hours and must not be paid for by employees. You must keep records of all training to so that you can see when it might need to be repeated. You should consult workers or their representatives to make sure training is relevant and effective.  Training should be repeated from time to time if the work it relates to is only done occasionally.  

RDPE Landskills South East offer 70% funded Health & Safety training courses at various Training providers around the region.  Please see the RDPE Training page for more information on Training courses.

A business should create risk assessments and a Health & Safety manual.
For each of the tasks your business carries out, e.g. manual cutting, extraction, state the risks associated with them and methods of working that you are putting in place to reduce these risks.  See the HSE example of the process of developing a risk assessment for a woodworking business, there is an example risk assessment that can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.

Your H&S manual may be made up of several sections:

  • your businesses Health & Safety policy statement 
  • The Organisational structure of your business showing names, job title and the tasks for which they have Health & Safety related responsibility. Download the publication Managing Health & Safety in Forestry (1999) from the HSE Forestry leaflets page for guidance on the roles and responsibilities expected to be allocated in the forestry workplace.
  • The Arrangements, i.e. how each of the tasks that your business carries out should be done – this will use the information from your risk assessment on how you will reduce the potential for accidents when carrying out that task.

The Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group (AFAG) leaflets offer advice on the safe use of equipment in carrying out forestry operation. They are produced in conjunction with the HSE and are downloadable from their Free Forestry Leaflets page.  These leaflets are very helpful and can be a useful tool in developing the Arrangements section of your Health & Safety manual.

The Managing Health & Safety in Forestry (1999) publication states that the main contractor “has the following key tasks:
● Work with the forestry work manager (FWM) to ensure health and safety standards are met.
● Select subcontractors who are competent and have made adequate provision for health
and safety.
● Manage your subcontractors to promote good health and safety practices.
Contractors and their subcontractors are the people most at risk in forestry. Whether you
are the sole contractor for the site or have been engaged to work alongside others, it is you
and your workmates that will suffer because of poor health and safety standards.”….

“If you employ 5 or more people, provide the FWM with the significant findings of your risk
assessment in writing, for example, a method statement referring to relevant AFAG leaflets.

If you employ less than five people, discuss with the FWM specific aspects of the site and
how they affect safe working practices (such as those set out in AFAG leaflets and, for
haulage, the Road haulage of round timber Code of Practice4).

As the contractor you are expected to ensure that you and your subcontractors:
● meet the health and safety conditions specified by the FWM;
● apply the control measures agreed with the FWM; and
● work to the site safety rules.”

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) produce a newsletter called Tree Work News which aims to make people aware of the dangers and ways of minimising risk in the forestry industry – the headline of a 2008 edition was ‘Chainsaws continue to kill’ 
Contact to receive your regular Tree Work News.  Back issues are available on their Tree Work information page

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), require you to report work related accidents, diseases and near-miss incidents.  Make sure you know how to report, even if you never need to.