CONCERN has been raised about the welfare of tree planters after evidence suggested some are sleeping in tents on site.

Forestry Journal was contacted by an individual within the tree-planting sector who said a number of his colleagues were concerned that landowners, forestry managers and contractors were taking advantage of ignorance around welfare regulations to keep costs low.

While some tree-planting companies hire temporary accommodation and provide welfare facilities for their seasonal employees, he said it was not uncommon for tree planters to be living on site in tents and caravans in the dead of winter.

He said: “There are guidelines in place that stipulate the minimum requirements for on-site welfare for workers, but they don’t go into details about living conditions. From my understanding, no-one has really raised this issue about the deplorable living conditions people are being put into.

“They’re planting chemically treated trees, getting coated with insecticides and living in caravans with no access to decontamination facilities. It’s a bit of a concern that this issue hasn’t been highlighted before. Without acknowledgement that there is an issue, there is acceptance of this kind of behaviour.”

The individual, who asked not to be named, said he had been prompted to contact Forestry Journal after a social media post circulated among his colleagues showing a photo of a tree planter’s snow-covered tent with the message: ‘Ready for bed, work tomorrow.’

He said: “The older, more experienced tree planters, who have a background of living in motor homes and caravans, act like this is an acceptable practice. As a result, anybody new coming into the industry expects this as standard, unaware of the health and safety regulations associated with welfare.

“I see this as an opportunity to highlight a plight during a politically sensitive time for the forestry industry when the world is craving more trees. It’s not slave labour, but it’s absolutely taking advantage of someone who is not very well educated in the regulations.”

Confor said it was unable to find evidence of planters sleeping in tents on planting sites.

Technical director Andrew Heald commented: “The welfare of everyone working on forestry sites is of great importance, and that includes access to toilets, washing facilities and somewhere dry to eat lunch or stop for a hot drink.

“Forestry workers carry out very physical work, often in isolated and challenging locations, and are expected to undertake difficult tasks to high professional standards. The provision of facilities for their general welfare has been required by law since 1992. The exact requirements are set out in FISA Safety Guide 806.”