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Working Systems, Legality and Insurance

Working systems, legality and insurance

Teamwork. All forestry work is based on work as a team and should aspire to the highest professional standards and productivity. Working to the right plan, fellers need to fell and present timber well with trees cleanly snedded and presented tip or butt first (as required) within 45º of the route of extraction. Horse loggers have to choose the correct horse(s), harness and equipment combination and work at a professional rate to maximise on the fellers productivity.

It is vital to identify suitable extraction routes and keep them clear of brash with low stumps; any slope of stumps must allow easy movement of logs avoiding any jarring to the horse’s shoulders.

Stacking areas should allow easy access to the horse logger and also to the timber lorry or other user of the timber to allow them to do their work efficiently. It may be with horses that a stacking area or landing will be smaller than with machinery extraction; it then becomes more important to have a good relationship with the haulier to ensure that timber is moved promptly. Stacking timber well will keep that relationship good. Our own practice is to leave saw logs parallel to the track to facilitate rolling onto the saw mill loader. Other timber is left at right angles and prepared timber (such as cleft stakes) stacked in alternate layers of 10’s to make counting straightforward at the point of sale.

Any standing timber to be retained must not be damaged and, if necessary, should be protected by brash, stakes or ‘sacrificial’ trees; that is trees that will be felled but can be left to protect more valuable trees until the end of the contract.

Working systems and terminology

It is a pre-requisite to any work that the correct timber type, quality and end use of the produce is identified, understood and agreed to maximise income for contractors and for owners. Working systems should be suitable; for example it is good to avoid dragging a high value saw log through the mud as it will keep its value better if clean.

Extraction is usually either pole length, whole tree, short wood or multiple shortwood. Pole length means the whole main stem without side branches is extracted in one piece (or a bundle of smaller stems) either literally pole length (which means any offcuts will be at the stack) or measured as multiple shortwood (which means any offcuts will be stacked with the brash in the wood). Extraction, if straight downhill, is tip first or, if across the slope or turning, butt first. Some loggers like a ‘star’ on the tip if tip first; that means some of the top side branches are left short rather than be cleanly snedded to avoid the choker chain slipping off. I prefer to ‘double connect’ the choker with a timber hitch as well as with the logging hook instead to avoid the load slipping out of the chain. If extracting by the butt end (in an arch, timber tongs or when the log needs to traverse a slope), it is important to cut off the buttresses (or ‘pencil’ the end) to reduce drag. Even on large saw logs, it is better to cut off buttesses as they will be waste at the mill and add additional weight that is best avoided. If possible a slight bevel (rounding) on the butt will soften any impact of the tree on obstacles unless this will affect the value of the timber. Whole tree is used where aesthetics or environmental considerations (heathland restoration or waterside clearance) require it. The whole tree is extracted by the butt until clear of the site and then snedded to ensure the site is left clear without any brash and avoiding soil enrichment. This requires a great deal of space at the landing. Brash is either stacked off site or burnt. Short wood is when the required produce is cross cut in the wood and only the produce is extracted, leaving all offcuts on the brash piles and, sometimes, making extraction to the various stacks more straightforward. Multiple short wood is where it is more economic to extract longer pieces containing several pieces of produce; for example instead of extracting fencing stakes at 5’6” it can be easier to extract three in a marked length of 16’6”.

Risk assessments and health and safety, legal and environmental requirements

It is vital to use safe handling, lifting and stacking techniques. Lifting aids should always be carried but that does not mean you should use them; remember you have a horse. Using the horse to stack, parbuckle or handle timber in other ways can be a great back saver. Use of winches, timber tongs, timber jacks, levers and hydraulics (if available) can all reduce back strain. If manually lifting, keep feet shoulder width apart, bend the knees and not the back, co-ordinate with anyone helping and lift cleanly using the leg muscles avoiding over reaching; if need be, re-adjust your position and stance and lift again.

It is essential to wear suitable PPE as identified by the risk assessment but remember that no amount of PPE is a substitute for safe working practice. All significant hazards should be identified and control measures stated in the risk assessment. A risk assessment, in writing, is a statutory requirement. This includes a site specific risk assessment. Well written it will alert you to hazards and make you, your work mates and your horse safer.

All work should be covered by adequate public liability insurance and also employers’ liability insurance if anyone is working with you, whether paid or not. Other insurance may be required and proper advice sought.

Any movements of horses in a trailer or horse lorry require a WATO certificate for driver and/or attendants. Full details and an application form from The British Driving Society. www.britishdrivingsociety.co.uk

Environmental issues that effect work and risk assessments will include water courses, overhead electricity cables and public access, amongst others. It is vital to see copies of NPTC certificates for any workers who you will be contracting with, their insurance certificates, a copy of the woodland plan and felling licence and to check with the local authority that there are no Tree Protection Orders in force. Contact with the relevant authorities; the Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, the utility companies, local authorities and others can enable you to draw up a plan and prepare for any issues before the start of the work. These agencies are, usually, helpful and friendly if contacted before the work and will be reasonable in helping to draw up a plan that covers sound working practice and prepares for contingencies.

Felling licences and Tree Protection Orders.

The issue of a current felling licence is essential before you start any work. It is possible for a woodland owner to harvest up to 5 cubic metres a quarter for their own use but only trees to a certain diameter. When contracting it is advised to ensure a felling licence is in place. This requires that the work in the wood (of which you may only be a part) conforms to a five year woodland management plan agreed with the local Woodland Officer employed by the Forestry Commission. It may require the woodland to be certificated by the Forestry Stewardship Council to ensure adherence to the highest standards of woodland management and care.

Ask to see a copy of the felling licence and check it is still current. Also ask to see a copy of the woodland management plan. It is preferable to ask for a copy of both to keep for your own records.

Tree Protection Orders are put in place by the local authority and may not necessarily only relate to ‘significant’ or veteran trees. Instances have been known of whole woods being subject to a TPO, even if unremarkable in terms of species and age. Check with the Tree Officer in the local council.

to contact Doug Joiner:

by email: doug@heavyhorses.net
by phone or fax: (+44) 01531 640 236 or on his mobile: (+44) 07773 900 751
or by post: Heavy Horses, Hill Farm, Stanley Hill, Bosbury, LEDBURY, HR8 1HE