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HSE updates on forestry and arboriculture fatal notifications

We regret to report two separate fatal incidents in the sector that happened in April 2024. As a member of HSE’s Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group, we ensure to share these incidents with members to promote key health and safety guidance and standards.

In Heathfield, East Sussex, there was an incident involving a person crushed whilst unloading tree trunks from a forwarder trailer. View the initial HSE notification here. In the Scottish Borders, a worker was killed and crushed by a tree while clearing windblown trees. View the initial HSE notification here.

Key messages

Loading and unloading forwarder trailers can kill or seriously injure people at work or passers-by if not done safely. Ensure that:

  • People are kept out of the work area when loading and unloading timber
  • Loading and unloading operations are carried out by trained and competent persons
  • Machinery and equipment is suitable for the task and is well-maintained
  • Any maintenance is carried out safely in accordance with the manufacturer’s handbook. Engine off, all power isolated and any stored energy is released
  • Ensure that the timber is safely stacked on the trailer and properly secured. The load restraint system must be sufficient for the material carried and take account of product length, product weight etc. Do not load above the headboard or above stanchions and pins
  • People understand the increased risks of operating in a remote site environment and know what to do in the event of emergency.


Being struck by a tree, or branches, during felling or other tree work is a significant cause of death and major injury in forestry, arboriculture, and other land-based industries. Tree work is common, and the risks need to be managed.

  • Anyone involved in tree work, including felling, must be trained and competent for the task being done. Keep other people well away from work areas
  • Tree work must be planned and supervised. Check trees for signs of decay and other factors that may affect felling or the work to be done. Where necessary set up exclusion zones
  • Select suitable equipment. Mechanised means of felling, e.g. harvesters, grapple saws and tree shears, should be considered and used where appropriate
  • Look out for dead wood, insecure/unstable branches, and broken tops in the tree to be cut, and in adjacent trees
  • During felling, keep other people more than two tree lengths away
  • Keep the escape route and work area, clear of obstructions
  • Emergency arrangements should include first aid provision and ability to quickly contact emergency services.


Key guidance

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