A new safety campaign from Forestry Commission Scotland is urging all forest visitors to take more care in the woods – because many don’t know the risks they might encounter in a working woodland.
‘Discover Forestry in Action’ features information about forest machinery and a short video which gives an up-close view of the scale and speed of forest operations that no-one would ever get close enough to see in person.
The campaign also highlights the reminiscences of a harvester operator who over the course of his career around the UK has witnessed several near misses and accidents – including fatalities - in a forest working environment.
Simon Hodge, Chief Executive of Forest Enterprise Scotland, which manages Scotland’s National Forest Estate, said: “Forests are a great place to visit - great venues for a relaxing, refreshing and invigorating day out.
“But forests are also a working environment where we harvest trees and tend the woodland to produce the ultimate sustainable raw material - timber.
“Our woodland management operations rarely affect much of the forest at any one time but we want to raise awareness amongst visitors so that they can avoid any dangers and risks.
“We use warning signs on site to highlight dangers and risks and we put in place diversions to avoid work sites because the heavy machinery can be very dangerous. Both felled timber and woodlands that are part-felled can pose dangers.“
During harvesting, machines swing heavy logs as though they were light sticks, and shattered or broken timber can fly through the air like spears. Chains on machinery can also break under tension – with bits flying off at lethal velocity. This ‘chain shot’ can also travel almost as fast as a bullet – so you don’t have to be close to machinery to be at risk.
Mr Hodge added: “Unfortunately, because some visitors just aren’t aware of how dangerous a working forest can be, we do encounter cyclists, walkers and runners who have not paid attention to the signage and suddenly appear in the middle of a harvesting zone or work site.
“If they are noticed, the operation is stopped and we explain the danger they’ve put themselves in.
“It’s important that forest visitors appreciate the risks of active work sites and that instructions on site signage is for their protection. Following these instructions will ensure that a visit to the forest remains safe and enjoyable.”