Fatal Injuries

This past month has seen two chainsaw operators killed in our industry.

The details are still being investigated by those involved together with the HSE so we will not speculate or comment as to the circumstances of these tragic events.

These come on top of other Chainsaw related fatalities earlier in the year. Chainsaw operations remain the highest on the list of hazardous operations that we undertake. Looking back at past incidents, and indeed our own experiences at Tilhill, it is often the tree, or part of the tree that causes injury, rather than the chainsaw itself.

The industry has been attempting to address the issue for many years, firstly with recognised training and assessment, then with refresher training and now looking at ongoing professional development and assessment.

The problem is not simple. Every single tree is different and has its own challenges. The chainsaw operator is not afforded the protection of an engineered cab if things don’t go as planned. By the nature of the work and risk zones, close supervision isn’t possible. Safe working practices must be practicable and take account of human behaviour. Operators have to both understand and implement safe working practices.

We must find a solution that considers all these difficulties and delivers improvement in the outcomes for Chainsaw Operators and their families. This has to be the single biggest and most important priority that, as an industry, we come together on and resolve.

• Chainsaw risk assessments must cover all the aspects of the work being undertaken, including the nature of the trees and the terrain.
• Chainsaw operators must be competent for the work they are doing. Competency is made up of knowledge, training, assessment, experience and how that is applied on site.
• Chainsaw Operations must be regularly monitored, checking that safe felling techniques are being used.
• All Chainsaw operations must have considered the risk from hung up trees and have agreed at the outset of work how they are to be made safe. Consider equipment on site and proximity to the public.
• Dead and diseased trees present specific risks, e.g., diseased Ash or stem injected Larch. Mechanised Felling must be prioritised.
• Check that all the above are in place, briefed to all on site and there is evidence they are being enacted.