Health and well-being of forestry workers

Working to develop guidelines, methods and tools to analyse the health and well-being of forest machine operators

News from Forest Research: April 2008

Forest tractorOnly a healthy and happy operator can be a productive operator! This is the message from COMFOR, a collective research project co-funded by the European Commission, which is tackling the common problems of occupational health and performance in European forest operations.

The three-year project currently has ten forestry small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around Europe, supported by a team of researchers, working to develop guidelines, methods and tools to analyse the health and well-being of forest machine operators. The goal of the project is to improve operators’ health and well-being, reducing lost time and money caused by illnesses and poor well-being, which in turn will improve overall productivity.

As a COMFOR partner, Forest Research is working with one of the ten SMEs, Harpers Harvesting and Transports Ltd, based in Aberdeenshire. In the initial phase of the project, Forest Research collected information about forestry and socioeconomics on a national level, as well as information about the partner SMEs. This information, along with that from other partner countries, was essential to help COMFOR understand the conditions and constraints of forestry businesses.

At present, Forest Research and Harpers are working to test and refine the methods and tools developed by COMFOR for use in the UK. The SMEs’ experience and feedback is critical to help ensure both the design and content of the tools will be applicable and useful for other contractors. Together, Forest Research and Harpers have contributed towards defining a series of guidelines and checklists for forestry contractors, including:

  • Checklist for a good work environment in an operator’s cab (e.g. safe access and temperature control)
  • Assessment of an operator’s health and well-being
  • Assessment of ‘work load points’ (i.e. physical strain on a worker) depending on the organisation of activities in a day.

Following a meeting in Finland earlier this year, Forest Research and the other COMFOR project partners are preparing for the dissemination phase of the project, where the findings will be used to train forestry contractors throughout Europe.

For more information, contact Duncan Ireland.

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This and other news stories can be found in the April 2008 issue of FR Eye, our online newsletter.