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The growth and management of forests encompasses a wide variety of activities ranging from regeneration burning, site and soil preparation, seed collection, tree planting and chemical use through to tree competition control, pruning, thinning and harvesting.

The forestry industry employs around 7,000 workers and has one of the highest fatality rates of all industries. The physical demands of the job, the use of heavy machinery and unpredictable conditions mean it is a high risk industry.


There are numerous hazards that make forestry work dangerous including:

  • hazardous manual tasks
  • exposure to chemicals
  • falling objects
  • falls from height
  • the operation of plant and equipment.


From 2003 to 2015:

  • 43 forestry workers were killed.
  • All 43 fatalities were male workers.
  • 19% of forestry workers deaths were caused by vehicle accidents.
  • 58% of forestry workers died as a result of being hit by falling objects.
  • 4 forestry workers died from being hit by self-propelled plant such as graders and front-end loaders.

Assessing risks in forestry operations

A forestry operations risk profile, shown below, demonstrates the more common activities, hazards and risks in forestry operations.

  • The more activities in the red, higher risk zone the greater the importance of the risk management system.

For each of the risks in the red zone, a risk assessment should be done on the working conditions to identify ways to eliminate or minimise risks and ensure the activity is in the yellow or green zones.

For further guidance on the risk management process see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks and model Code of Practice: Hazardous manual tasks.

Forestry operations risk profile

Hazards and activities Higher risk Medium risk Lower risk
Operating machinery
  • Workers operate machinery without training or assessment
  • Workers have some training or training which is not current or relevant to the machinery they are operating
  • Has only been assessed informally
  • Workers have been trained and assessed in the machinery they are operating
Falling objects
  • Workers with no protective canopy
  • Workers outside a protective canopy some of the time
  • Workers under protective canopy
Terrain and slope
  • Activity on steep slopes
  • Some activity on steep slopes
  • Activity on flat ground
Hazardous trees
  • Most trees have many dead limbs or interlocked crowns
  • Some trees have many dead limbs or interlocked crowns
  • Most trees are healthy with regular form
Working alone
  • Working alone without emergency procedures
  • Working alone with agreed emergency contact and procedures
  • Working alone but within the same area as others in constant communication
Felling methods
  • Felling done by hand using skill to control fall direction
  • Mainly mechanical felling with hand felling only used as required
  • Mechanical felling with ability to control fall direction
Working at night
  • Working at night with poor visibility in the work area
  • Working at night where the active work area is clearly visible to all operations
  • Working at night where all work is clearly visible to all operations

Guidance materials for forestry operations

Guidance material is available for:

  • growing and managing forests
  • cable logging
  • coupe and harvesting site access and preparation
  • timber harvesting operations
  • log landings
  • log extraction
  • loading, transporting and unloading logs
  • infield processing of forest products
  • plant and equipment for forestry operations
  • general hazards in forestry operations.

Further advice

SWA is not a regulator and cannot advise you about work health and safety compliance in the forestry industry. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.



Codes and guides

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