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More than 100 serious injuries occur in forestry every year – here’s how to avoid them

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Appropriate hazard signs are essential

Appropriate hazard signs are essential

Appropriate hazard signs are essential

Why not make 2022 a safe year? With the damage Storm Barra caused still fresh in our minds, it is no surprise that the Teagasc National Farm Survey indicates that between six and seven per cent of all injuries in the agriculture and forestry sector are chainsaw or wood-related.

This means that more than 100 serious injuries occur every year.

Self-employed farmers, farm workers and contractors are particularly at risk. I’m sure that these 100-plus people thought that it wouldn’t happen to them. Well, it did.

That is why it is important to take health and safety issues in forestry operations seriously. As a forest owner, you have a responsibility to look after yourself and others in your forest. It is the responsibility of every owner to make their forest a safe and healthy place to work.

You don’t want to become a statistic for all the wrong reasons.

Know your role

There are four clearly defined roles, each with its own specific legal duties: landowner, forestry works manager, contractor and subcontractor.

As the landowner, you are required to: consider site access for machinery; the effects of forestry operations on your neighbours, the local community and the public; and inform the Forestry Works Manager/Contractor of all known hazards on the land so the risk assessment can be completed.

The forestry works manager needs to: complete a risk assessment; map the work site; highlight hazards such as access roads, overhead power lines, steep terrain and so on; ensure all contractors are competent, properly trained and have appropriate insurance cover in place; and check weekly to see that the site operational risk assessment is being complied with.

The contractor must: be competent and properly trained; have a good safety record; be in possession of a site-specific Safety Statement; and coordinate with employees/subcontractors to ensure that the health and safety requirements are in place.

Depending on your control of operations, you as the forest owner may be responsible for a number of roles, e.g. landowner as well as forestry works manager.

Health and safety checklist

Before any work is carried out, the landowner, forestry works manager, contractor and other relevant parties should meet to discuss the health and safety issues and have a written agreement in place on who will be the forestry works manager.

The owner, forestry works manager should provide the following documentation:

  •  site specific risk assessment;
  • hazard map with emergency contact details;
  • emergency and contingency planning;
  • monitor record.

The contractor should provide copies of:

  • insurance details;
  • competency certs;
  • first aid certs;
  • equipment maintenance records;
  • safety statement;
  • operational risk assessment.

They should also ensure that the appropriate equipment and signage are on site, such as:

  • first aid kit and list of first aid trained personnel;
  • appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • site notices relevant to the operation;
  • hazard signs.

Online information

To find out more, check out the recently updated and much expanded Health and Safety section at teagasc.ie/forestsafety, where you can find a wealth of information, including details on what needs to be included in a safety statement, as well as a range of safety leaflets.

You can also watch a couple of short videos here dealing with operating a chainsaw safely. For instance, what safety gear you need to have and understanding the various safety features of a chainsaw.

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This section also covers the code of practice for managing safety and health in forestry operations, gives you a handy checklist to stay safe, understand your role and legal obligations, and much more.

2022 forestry events

Who would have thought that 2021 would look very similar to 2020?

I was surprised how well people have adapted to this new digital reality. Over 2,000 people attended one or more of our online events in 2021.

These ranged from afforestation workshops, virtual forest walks to broadleaf management, timber sales and firewood production webinars. Most of these events can be viewed on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/teagascforestryvideos.

We even managed to get boots on the ground in October with our conifer-thinning best practice event.

This year’s events may be digital or can hopefully take place at a local venue — dependent on Covid-19 requirements. There’s flexibility to convert our events from digital to local or vice versa. Have a look at the table below for details of our planned events.

By attending a forestry event — be it a webinar or a seminar — you will always pick up useful information, hear about an alternative approach, learn about the latest research or pick up useful management tips.

Teagasc forestry information can be trusted: our information is objective and independent.

Our job is to provide you with the facts so you can make an informed decision.

Our programme will focus in particular on afforestation, forest management, and thinning of both conifers and broadleaves.

Keep an eye on teagasc.ie/forestry for up-to-date event details.

2022 forestry events

March/April: Afforestation Promotion — regional events

April/May: Collaborative Pine Weevil Project Stakeholder Conference

May: Forest Recreation — regional events

June: Forestry event focusing on ash dieback

July: Continuous Cover Forestry Event, Caherconlish, Co Limerick

July: Forestry presence at Energy In Agriculture, Gurteen, Co Tipperary

August: Forest Village at the Tullamore Show

September: National Ploughing Championships, Ratheniska, Co Laois

September: Talking Timber — Conifer timber marketing event

October: Woodland for Water Event, Cork

Steven Meyen is a Teagasc forestry advisor based in Ballybofey; steven.meyen@teagasc.ie.


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