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Managing Safety and Health in Forestry Operations

The forest industry in Ireland has evolved in recent years to a situation where contracting is the norm. There may now be many links in the chain between ‘forest owner’ and ‘forest worker’.

Whether you are a timber grower or purchaser, contractor or subcontractor (operator), you have legal duties to fulfil in order to ensure that people’s safety and health is not put at risk during, or as a result of, forestry operations.

The law requires that, during the planning and carrying out of forestry operations, a number of safety and health duties be fulfilled, including:

  • Preparing written risk assessments
  • Selecting suitable equipment for the job
  • Protecting public safety and health
  • Setting out safe working procedures
  • Ensuring operators are competent
  • Supervising and monitoring the work

Depending on the contractual relationship, different role-holders may share duties. To successfully manage safety and health, you need to co-ordinate your activities with others and pass information up and down the contract chain. To help this flow of information and to ensure that the right people carry out the right tasks, the Code of Practice for Managing Safety and Health in Forestry Operations sets out four management roles.

These roles, which are not an attempt to describe the actual contractual relation in forestry contracts, are:

  • The Landowner role
  • The Forestry Work Manager (FWM) role
  • The Contractor role
  • The Sub-contractor role

Within any forestry contract you need to identify which of these roles falls to you and carry out the appropriate tasks. Depending on how the contracts are organised for a particular work-site, you may pick up more than one role.

Within each role, the effort demanded by a particular task depends on the complexity and extent of the risks involved. The greater the risks, the greater the effort needed. The following table provides an overview of the four different management roles.

RoleDefinitionExamples of who may take on this role
Landowner The person or company in control of the land on which the forestry work takes place
  • Timber growers such as farmers or estate owners with forested land
  • State and state-sponsored bodies and local authorities
  • Forestry management companies and land agents working on behalf of private and public owners
Forestry Work Manager The person or company who commissions work on a forestry site
  • Anyone in the landowner role directly engaging forestry contractors as part of their business
  • Timber purchasers such as traders, processors and contractors
Contractor The provider of a forestry service
  • Contracting companies with their own employees or who take on sub-contractors
  • Owner-operators
  • Hauliers
Sub-contractor Anyone engaged by a contractor other than by direct employment
  • Anyone working under contract to a contractor
  • Anyone in any of the other roles above who works on the site

Relevant publications: