Working with Nature: Safety Tips for Handling Forestry Tools & Equipment
1. Get Your PPE On
Wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) on a forestry site is an absolute must. OSHA requires all workers on logging sites to adhere to strict PPE guidelines. This includes (among other things) hard hats, eye and face protection, ear protection and body protection. Personal protection equipment is the minimum for logging safety. While it cannot prevent an incident, it can help prevent an injury or serious harm if an accident should occur.
Head and Face Protection
Hard hats are required for all duties performed at a logging site. Hard hats that have a face shield or mesh visor can help safeguard the face and eyes from flying debris. This is especially important for workers operating chainsaws.
Eye and Ear Protection
Long and repeated exposure to loud noise can cause hearing damage or even loss. Using ear muffs or earplugs is not only a required safety practice, but it can also mean the prevention of significant hearing loss which may happen gradually over time.
Leg and Body Protection
Workers operating chainsaws must wear leg protection. This will usually mean wearing saw chaps.These are special pant legs that help protect the legs should a chainsaw slip out of control. Workers should also have cut-resistant boots and gloves.
2. Check Your Chain Saws
Chainsaws are powerful portable cutting tools, and possibly one of the most dangerous to use. Any worker using a chainsaw should be familiar with its mechanics and safety features. You should always read the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines before starting your equipment.
Chainsaws have many built-in features for safety. It will have a chain brake, which is designed to halt the chain when the saw receives kickback. Chainsaws also come with a chain catcher and hand guard, which provides added protection if the chain should break or derail.
As with all tools and machinery, proper care is necessary for the safest use. All chainsaw safety features should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure they are operating properly. Make sure the chain is tight, sharp and everything is sufficiently lubed.
3. Handling Heavy Machinery
Logging sites employ a lot of heavy machinery to get those heavy logs felled, moved and shipped. Harvesters and forwarders, skidders and loaders—while they all perform different jobs, they all require the same kind of attention and care to be operated safely and efficiently.
Inspect and Maintain
Every machine and vehicle should be inspected before the beginning of a logger’s shift. Any equipment that is damaged or in need of maintenance should not be used until the repair has been made. Operators should read all operation and maintenance materials before beginning to work with any piece of equipment.
In addition to wearing seatbelts, many forestry machines and vehicles have safety guards to protect their drivers and operators. These include safety screens that may or may not be removable. Make sure all safety guards are in place and secured before operating any logging equipment.
Know Your Limits
As with any type of equipment, forestry tools are only designed for a certain rated weight or use. Never push your equipment past its limits. This could mean accidents, breaks or rollovers. Being mindful of your machine’s limits also means operating at the suggested speed and in the right weather conditions.
4. Know Where You Are
Being aware of your surroundings is among the most important safety techniques for the work site. This means knowing what and who is around you, and what is going on. There is a lot of movement on a forestry site, so remaining alert is essential.
Timber! Before anything comes down, everyone should be aware that a tree is about to be felled. Everyone on the site will need to know what is coming down, which direction it’s falling and how far back they need to be.
Trees aren’t the only thing falling on these sites. Beware of limbs, lodged trees and falling equipment when working in the woods. Your hard hat helps, but avoiding falling objects altogether can save you from a potential accident.
The forestry industry offers an exciting, one-of-a-kind work experience to those who work in the field. Maintaining rigorous safety standards should be the number one priority for employers and workers in this dangerous industry. With the proper equipment, care and training, logging can be safe and rewarding.
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.