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staff member putting up a safety sign

We are urging members of the public to adhere to warning and safety signage to avoid putting themselves in danger from being crushed by trees, machinery or being ‘shot’ by broken chain links from chainsaws or harvesters.   

The call comes as the organisation records significant increase in reports from worried staff and contractors regarding incursions onto live harvesting sites by forest visitors. 

As well as having ignored warning and safety signage, people who trespass into harvesting areas often refuse to listen to advice and misguidedly claim (some aggressively) their right of access under The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and the associated Scotland Outdoor Access Code.

The fear is that people ignoring safety signage and instruction from staff and contractors will one day lead to someone being seriously hurt or even killed.

Stuart Chalmers for Forestry and Land Scotland, said;

“We want everyone to have a great visit to the forest but more importantly we want people to get home safely. Many of the big safety risks are not obvious and those visitors who ignore our safety signage are taking a serious risk that could result in life changing injuries or worse.

“Harvesting machines work incredibly fast and they are very noisy. Operators will not hear – and might not see anyone approaching. Fatalities and serious accidents have occurred in the past because members of the public have accessed a works area when they should not.

“We do not want there to be any more such incidents so, for their own safety, we strongly urge all visitors to observe and heed safety signage and follow diversions if one is provided. If a site is closed, then no reasonable alternative route is available and visitors should choose another trail or forest.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives visitors have a right of responsible access but also requires that land managers provide the least restrictive access. Working in tandem these requirements help to set the conditions for safe access. However, if visitors ignore safety signage they are being irresponsible for their own safety and of people who work in the forest.

Safety zones around active work sites need to be large. A harvester can fell and de-limb a 40ft tree in less than a minute but a tree being grappled by a machine can knock over adjacent unstable trees. Anyone within two tree lengths of active operations could potentially be involved in a serious accident.

However, there is also a risk of the high-speed, heavy-duty chain drives snapping and links (“chain shot”) flying off as far as 200 metres with the force – and equivalent impact – of a bullet.

Visitors are encouraged to check our website destination pages before they leave home to get the latest updates on works affecting our forests.