Essential parts of the Scottish forestry industry have been operating throughout the restrictions on movement.  With the publication of two documents by both the Scottish Government and FISA, the Scottish forestry industry now has specific guidance for operating during COVID-19. 

Although primarily aimed at the forestry industry, the documents also provide important information to landowners, setting out the scope of their enhanced health and safety obligations.

The Scottish Government's  Covid-19 Forestry Sector Restart & Resilience Plan sets out a national plan to fully reopen the sector in line with the overall route map that was published last month.

The forestry sector is covered by phases 1 and 2 of the route map. Phase 1 saw non-essential outdoor operations resume with physical distancing measures, while non-essential, indoor non-office-based operations are to recommence as we move into phase 2. General guidance is expected soon, to cover indoor non-office workplaces.

The Restart and Resilience Plan acknowledges that those parts of the industry that have continued while restrictions on movement have been in place have provided important lessons for the rest of the industry. It also notes the importance of restarting the forestry industry as part of Scotland's 'green recovery'.

The second new piece of guidance, prepared by the Forestry Industry Safety Accord (FISA), sets out how forestry operations will be conducted to ensure employee safety. Like most other workplaces, of key importance will be physical (social) distancing requirements - both on site and travelling to and from site - as well as the use of PPE.

Other parts of the guidance deal with more forestry specific issues, such as public access rights.

The guidance shows the impact of other recent changes in the law. With the introduction of welfare facilities on most forestry sites, workers now have access to hand washing facilities. However, such facilities also create COVID-19 related risks, so regular cleaning will be needed, as well as extra care to ensure that physical distancing can be maintained when they are in use.

As the industry gets up and running again, landowners should stay mindful of preventing the spread of COVID-19 on site, in addition to their existing health and safety obligations.

The guidance lists the following key tasks for landowners (i.e. those in control of the land on which the work takes place (and their agents), rather than just the owners themselves):

  1. Coordinating all activities on site – In relation to COVID-19 this will include separating forestry operations from other activities.
  2. Gathering hazard information - There is already an obligation on landowners to communicate hazard information to forestry work managers but they should also be mindful that third party services may be delayed due to the need to ensure safety in their own workplaces.
  3. Protecting others from the work on site – This includes managing the risk to the public, such as continuing to exclude them from operational sites and erecting COVID-19 signage.
  4. Communicating before changing procedure – Landowners should speak to their forestry work manager if procedures are going to be changed, to prevent increased risk of transmission and infection.
  5. Monitoring standards – This includes keeping in contact with forestry work managers to ensure procedures are being followed (while minimising the number of face-to-face meetings).

 By reading and following the guidance, landowners can assist in the resumption in forestry activities in Scotland, allowing this key sector to get back to work in a safe and responsible manner.


Graeme Leith


Euan O'Neill

Trainee at Brodies LLP