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Woodland Safety

Active woodland owners are engaged in a number of activities that carry some risk of illness, injury, or death. Many of these risks are similar to those experienced by farmers, foresters, and other forest workers.  Owners can control those risks with some simple steps that consider choosing the right equipment, increasing knowledge, improving skills, and planning  activities.

Safety principles

A hazard is set of conditions which create the potential for harm or injury. People encounter many hazards each day that they perceive to be uncontrollable. However, others are actively controlled through the equipment choice (cars with high safety ratings) or behavior (using seatbelts, obeying traffic rules).

Individuals often have misperceptions of both the likelihood that the hazard will result in an injury and the severity of the injury that results from those hazards. Here some significant hazards are addressed as well as the equipment, knowledge, and behavior that will minimize the risk and severity of injury.

Planning work in the woods

Since an accident is an “unplanned event” planning has a major role in controlling hazards.

  • Emergency response: Have well stocked emergency and first aid kits.
  • Communications: Check whether there is cellphone reception for voice or text before starting an activity. Satellite messaging GPS devices or personal locators may also be valuable for reaching help. While communication technology provides a sense of security, accidents can happen in ways to make that technology useless. (Its hard to make a phone call when unconscious).
  • Work in groups: For more hazardous tasks, it is important to work with someone to watch for hazards, share the workload, render first aid, and call for help.
  • Itinerary: Share a schedule of locations and activities with someone else, and prearrange a check-in time. If the check-in time passes, that person will know which locations to check and render assistance.
  • Access: Think about the best way to get to a location via the nearest woods and public roads. Is the location behind a locked gate that would make access more difficult? How easy is it to describe the route?


  • Read and understand the operators manual.
  • Inspect the saw to confirm that it is in good working order (including the safety features).
  • Ensure that the difficulty of the job matches the skill level and experience of the operator.
    Training opportunities may be found through a local chainsaw dealer.
  • Don’t work alone.
  • Understand the reactive forces of the saw (especially kickback).
  • Understand how compression and tension forces in wood affect chainsaw hazards.
  • Be aware that fatigue and hydration play a major role in the operator mistakes that lead to injury.
  • Wear all the suggested PPE.


ATVs have added considerably to the convenience of travelling in forests due to their large engine power and low weight. It’s those specific design parameters that have contributed to many injuries and fatalities. Many ATVs are put to work on heavy tasks since they have the engine power to carry significant loads and pull small implements. However their low weight may make the machines unstable during heavy operations.

  • Read and understand the owners manual.
  • Attend ATV training programs.
  • Wear safety gear (helmets, boots, long pants, eye protection).
  • Travel at slow speeds if trail conditions are unknown.
  • Avoid implements that are not designed specifically for ATVs.
  • Comply with maximum load limits set by the manufacturer.


Ag tractors

Rollover: In the US about one half of all tractor related fatalities are due to tractor rollovers. Overturns can happen very quickly in response to conditions like:

  • Pulling loads uphill
  • Stuck in the mud
  • Loads hitched above the drawbar
  • Sharp turns
  • Quick change in direction
  • Uneven terrain
  • Pulling loads that overpower the tractor

ROPS: Rollover Protective Structures with seatbelts are 99% effective in preventing fatalities from rollovers.

  • Newer farm tractors are equipped with ROPS and seatbelts.
  • Older tractors can be retrofit with ROPS and seatbelts. Search for tractor models at ca.uky.edu/rops
  • Always use the seatbelt on all tractors with ROPS.

Farm implements: Mowers are commonly used on acreages for maintaining roads, yards, and wildlife openings. All mowing operations must be done with tractors with ROPS. Mowers can produce flying object hazards to bystanders and operators are subject to hazards from the PTO, especially if the shaft is not properly guarded. See the link for proper installation of PTO guards.

Fore more information and links to ag tractor safety go to aces.edu/farmsafety

Approaching Forest Operations

During an on-going forest operation the woods become someone else’s worksite. The supervisor has the right and responsibility to control hazards and ensure worker and bystander safety. Any visitor should:

  • Clearly communicate your intention to come on the worksite to the supervisor and wait for permission.
    • Do not attempt to observe operation from the area without permission of the supervisor and awareness of the crew.
  • Be prepared to wear all required PPE, especially a high visibility hard hat and vest.
  • Follow any specific safety directions the supervisor or designees may have.

Avoid logging hazards:

  • Stay at least two tree lengths from overhead hazards (falling trees, trees lifted by loader).
  • Be aware and avoid overhead hazards created in the woods (lodged trees, hanging limbs, standing dead trees)
  • Stay more than 300-500 feet from flying object hazards (felling machines, buck saws, delimbers, chippers, and mulchers).
  • Observe felling machine activity from a safe distance behind the machine.
  • Stay at least one tree length from active skid trails.
  • Do not walk over log piles.

To communicate with operators/workers, take a position outside of the hazard zone and get the operator's attention with hand signals, radio, or telephone. Wait until the machine is powered down, implements are grounded and the operator gives some signal to approach.