Prompted by concerns over the welfare of tree planters, Forestry Journal approached the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Forest Industry Safety Accord (FISA) for guidance. In this article, they lay out the most up-to-date requirements for companies and individuals involved in forestry work, with special attention on unskilled, seasonal workers.

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.

The FISA Worksite Operations Working Group, in consultation with HSE and together with forestry safety professionals and the wider industry, has produced the FISA 806 Welfare Safety Guide to assist duty holders in understanding what the existing Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require. This FISA guide also gives clear examples of types of welfare provision that are considered reasonably practicable on forestry sites. These examples demonstrate how on larger/more complex sites this provision can include – as well as welfare facilities – a seated team discussion/planning/training area, space to store site paperwork, and provision of drying facilities.

FISA 806 WELFARE Forestry Journal: A typical remote forestry planting work site.A typical remote forestry planting work site.SAFETY GUIDE

The FISA guide on welfare is new to the forestry industry and has been released to give the industry guidance on how to meet the legislation. The guide has an 18-month feedback period with request for comments to be sent to FISA (info@ukfisa.com). Comments will be fed back to the Worksite Operations Working Group and the guide will be reviewed 18 months after release. 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.

Regs 4 (1) and (2) 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 employers and forestry works managers (FWMs). 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 contractors).

Paras 203 and 204 of the Approved Code of Practice (remote workplaces and temporary worksites) state that, as far as possible, chemical toilets which have to be emptied manually should be avoided, and that toilets should be of flushing type. Pumped-out holding tank type toilets in portable units are becoming readily available and the reasonable practicality of their use should be considered a priority.

The ACOP reiterates the requirement for warm running water for washing. The FISA guide contains a table which shows a range of options that may be suitable for a variety of site situations. Drinking water must be provided whichever option is chosen. Sites 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 you review the site requirements, consider the additional benefits that could be added, such as a seating area (while not a legal requirement under the workplace regulations), which could be used for site meetings and briefings/toolbox talks or for rest and shelter from the weather.

Forestry Journal: The provision of facilities for the general welfare of forestry workers has been required by law since 1992. The exact requirements are set out in FISA Safety Guide 806.The provision of facilities for the general welfare of forestry workers has been required by law since 1992. The exact requirements are set out in FISA Safety Guide 806.

WELFARE OF TREE PLANTERS

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

COSHH Regulations 2002 (as amended) require employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. As an employer, you are responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect health. If you have employees (you control their work), every part of COSHH applies. If you engage ‘self-employed’ labour on a planting site, you also ‘control /give direction for their work’, so you are responsible for their protection under the COSHH regulations.

The safety data sheet for the products used (e.g. insecticide) could identify a higher level of welfare requirements (than the workplace regs described above). These should be outlined in a COSHH assessment and may include facilities to wash down and dry personal protective equipment (PPE).

Unskilled, seasonal workers are often employed in the forestry industry to undertake tasks such as planting. Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 puts duties on those in control of an undertaking, which would include organisation of tree planting. All workers, including those on temporary contracts, are entitled to work in an environment where the risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. The employer must provide PPE at no cost to the temporary worker, and is responsible for making arrangements to supply and maintain the PPE. If the accommodation is provided by the employer and is used as the welfare facilities on the site, health and safety welfare requirements as above will apply.

Guidance on this issue has been included in the FISA guide and will be focused on by HSE.

Forestry Journal: One example of a welfare solution is this welfare van, kitted out with toilet, hot and cold water, rest area and heating.One example of a welfare solution is this welfare van, kitted out with toilet, hot and cold water, rest area and heating.

GMHSF

The refreshed 2019 FISA Guidance on Managing Health & Safety in Forestry (GMHSF) is also now available to the UK forestry industry on the Forest Industry Safety Accord (FISA) website.

This core guidance is not new, having been first launched in 1999 with earlier updates in 2003 and 2014. This 2019 version clearly sets out each of the key roles in the planning and delivery of forestry work, including for the first time the role of forestry workers. 

The new documents set out the legal duties, responsibilities and nature of each of the roles with the aim of making those duties and responsibilities more straightforward and understandable.

Although everyone involved in forestry work has health and safety duties and/or responsibilities, the primary responsibility for ensuring the effective planning of work and management of risks in forestry rests with the FWM.

Forestry work generally takes place in difficult and complicated outdoor environments, amongst significant hazards and constraints. It is a high-risk industry and the planning, management and co-ordination required for forest operations are necessarily complex. Responsibility for safety in this complex working environment extends from workers on the ground right through to chief executives of management companies and forestry organisations, and to landowners too. 

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, but 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.

For more information visit www.ukfisa.com

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