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Providing welfare facilities for forestry operations

5 May 2020

Forestry workers often work in isolated and challenging locations and are expected to undertake difficult tasks to a professional standard.  The provision of facilities for their general welfare has been required by law for over 20 years.

FISA 806 Welfare Safety Guide

The newly released FISA 806 Welfare Safety Guide clearly outlines what the existing Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require.  This FISA guide also gives examples of types of welfare provision that are considered reasonably practicable on forestry sites.  These examples demonstrate how on larger, more complex sites, welfare facilities can be multifunctional.  They can provide seating for site meetings, toolbox talks, and for rest and shelter from the weather, as well as space to store site paperwork, and provision of drying facilities.

The FISA guide on welfare is new to the forestry industry and has been released to give the forest industry guidance on how to meet the existing legislation.

Regs 4 (1) and (2) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that both employers and those who, to any extent, have control of a workplace must provide welfare facilities.  In a forestry setting, this is the employer and the Forest Works Manager (FWM).  The FWM must ensure that adequate welfare facilities have been provided for those working on-site by agreeing who is responsible for providing them (either the FWM and/or the principal Contractor).

Paras 203 and 204 of the Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) for remote workplaces and temporary worksites suggest that, as far as possible, chemical toilets which have to be emptied manually should be avoided, and that toilets should be of flushing type.  The ACOP reiterates the requirement for running water for washing.  The FISA Guide contains a table which shows a range of examples that may be suitable for a range of forestry site situations.  Drinking water must be provided whichever option is chosen.  Each site should be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Facilities need to be fit for purpose, well maintained, and safe for people and the environment.

When planting and spraying work is being undertaken on site, other legal requirements must be considered.  For example, washing facilities for dealing with chemical products, required under COSHH for planting and spraying activities over large areas of land.  A purpose-built welfare unit should be positioned at a suitable location e.g. where vehicles are to be parked.  Additional or movement of welfare provision should be considered as the work moves across large sites.

COSHH Regulations 2002 (as amended) is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. An employer is responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect health.  If engaging ‘self-employed’ labour on a planting site, the main contractor ‘controls the work’ and they are then responsible for the protection of those persons under the COSHH Regulations.

What are my responsibilities as a landowner?

As a Landowner, your core health and safety guidance for forestry is the (refreshed 2019) FISA Guidance on Managing Health & Safety in Forestry (GMHSF)

The 2019 GMHSF is not new, having been first launched in 1999 with earlier updates in 2003 and 2014, but it now clearly explains the roles and responsibilities of those planning and delivering forestry work.

Crucially, as a Landowner you have the following key responsibilities:

  • Co-ordination of activities on the overall landholding for health and safety purposes
  • Gathering information about hazards on and around forestry worksites (and any environmental sensitivities) and communicate them to the FWM
  • Ensuring the work on a site does not affect the health and safety of other people. This includes making sure the person or organisation with overall control of the forestry operation, the FWM, is competent in terms of health and safety
  • You and the FWM must co-operate to ensure the forestry work and access arrangements are coordinated with any other activities taking place on or around the land.

If you are in doubt about your own knowledge or ability to do this, it is in your interests to appoint a competent agent to act for you, or to secure other expert assistance.

Get a competent FWM! If you engage a contractor directly, you are taking on the role of FWM.  If you are not competent or resourced to do all that this entails, you should engage a competent person to do it for you.

If your contractor offers to act as FWM, you must check they are competent to do so.  If you engage an agent to act on your behalf, you need to check they are competent to manage forestry works to fulfil your legal duties and responsibilities to the standards and requirements outline in the FISA GMHSF.  To check competence, you will need to make enquiries – does the FWM/Agent have the right combination of skills, experience and knowledge? The degree of competence required will depend on the work.  The level of enquiries you make should be determined by the level of risks and the complexity of the job.  Remember, forestry work is highly skilled, complex and can be high risk, so the level of competence will need to match this.

Planning and carrying out commercial forestry operations involves several tasks and processes that have to be managed to ensure health and safety is built into every activity, for example:

  • Selecting suitable equipment
  • Completing risk assessments
  • Communicating effectively
  • Protecting the health and safety of the public
  • Establishing safe working practices
  • Ensuring appropriate training and competence for all involved
  • Selecting skilled and experienced contractors who are competent
  • Supervising the work effectively

It is important that the FWM and everyone else involved understands which role(s) they have to fulfil in each situation.  Any role may be performed by an organisation (such as a forestry business) even though it will generally assign an employee or another person to perform the functions of the role on its behalf.  It is clearly possible to delegate the functions of a particular role to an individual; it is not possible to delegate the legal responsibilities that go with that role.

Some roles, for example, the FWM role or the contractor role, have significantly more responsibilities than others.  However, all roles are interdependent and require discussion and co-operation.

The guide has an 18-month feedback period with a request for comments to be feedback to FISA (  Having this review period will assist in getting the guide right for the industry; this is important as we want to encourage the industry to step forward and improve the approach to welfare provision on forestry sites.

FISA guidance on all aspects of safety in forestry can be found on the FISA website.

Gillian Clark, CEO, Forest Industry Safety Accord (FISA) for the Farm Advisory Service

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