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Falls Prevention Farm Forest Pruning

  • Document Type: Guidance Note
    Keycode: web only
    Industry: Farming, 
    Category: Falls Prevention, General, Manual Handling, 
    Division Author: Manufacturing & Agriculture
    Publication Date: 06 June 2005
    Date First Published: 01 September 2004
    Summary: This guidance note is intended for farmers and provides risk controls to prevent falling from heights above two meters while engaged in the task of forest pruning.

PreambleThis guide is developed by WorkSafe in consultation with the Victorian Farmers Federation, the Australian Workers' Union, the Department of Primary Industries, and the CFMEU (Forestry Division).

Purpose of this Guide
This guide is designed to assist farmers to control the risk of falling from height above two meters while engaged in the task of forest pruning.

The best and preferred way to reduce the risk of injury is not to have to work at heights. This can be achieved by:

  • Using loppers or a saw on an extendable pole so that pruning can be done from the ground. This is only a suitable solution for short term pruning as it involves hazardous manual handling which may result in injury, such as muscle strain.

If it is not practicable to do the task of forest pruning from ground level, then consider the following options in order of priority:

  • The use of a boom type elevated work platform (EWP) or travel tower similar to a cherry picker in combination with a suitable fall protection harness to move from tree to tree during pruning tasks. EWPs are not safe for use in windy conditions, near powerlines or on steep, unstable, or sloping ground.
  • The use of a ladder in combination with a suitable fall protection harness. Ensure the following conditions are met:
  • The ladder is appropriate for the task and designed and used in accordance with the specified standard.
  • The ladder and fall protection equipment is maintained and in good condition.
  • The ladder is anchored at the base and then secured at the top of the ladder to the tree before starting the pruning task.
  • The operator uses a personal fall protection device such as a safety harness or pole strap that is attached to the tree.
  • The operator uses a scabbard or holster on a waist belt to hold sharp tools allowing the use of both hands to ascend and descend the ladder.
  • The work is not performed in high winds, extreme heat, extreme cold or rain.
  • The ladder is clear from power lines.
  • Emergency procedures are in place before commencing the pruning task (supervision, communication, rescue and first aid)
  • During forest pruning operations, there is also the danger of being injured by overhead branches, falling branches and slipping on wet surfaces. Suitable personal protective equipment needs to be worn, such as hard-hats, safety glasses and non-slip footwear. Workers need to be provided with information, training and instruction on the work procedures and safe system of work to perform the pruning task.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 require employers (including farmers) to:

  • identify any task that an employee or contractor is required to undertake involving a fall hazard (a fall of more than 2 metres).
  • assess the risk of a fall taking into account the nature and duration of the task, the physical surroundings in which the task is to be performed and the conditions during which the task is to be performed.
  • eliminate the risk or if that is not practicable reduce the risk so far as is practicable by arranging for the task to be undertaken:
    • from the ground or from a solid construction
    • if that is not practicable, using a passive fall prevention device eg temporary work platform
    • if that is not practicable, using a work positioning system eg industrial rope access
    • if that is not practicable, using a fall injury prevention system eg safety harness system
    • if that is not practicable, using a portable ladder appropriate for the task and implementing an administrative control eg work procedures
  • make sure that any solution (risk control) that is used or is available for use to control the risk of a fall is properly maintained.
  • provide any employees or contractors who are required to undertake any task identified as involving a fall hazard with such information, instruction and training as is necessary to enable them to perform their work in a safe manner.

Codes of Practice will continue to be a practical guide for those who have OHS duties and WorkSafe will continue to regard those who comply with the topics covered in the Codes of Practice as complying with OHS laws. WorkSafe will progressively review all Codes of Practice and replace them with guidance material and in appropriate cases, with Compliance Codes.

Acts and Regulations

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007

Acts and regulations are available from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 or order online at

View the legislation at Victorian Law Today at

Standards Australia

  • AS 4373 1996 Pruning of Amenity Trees
  • AS/NZS 1891.4:2000 Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices -- Selection, use and maintenance
  • AS 1418.10: 2004 Cranes, hoists and winches - Elevating work platforms
  • AS/NZS 1892.1: 1996 Portable ladders - Metal
  • AS/NZS 1892.5:2000 Portable ladders -- Selection, safe use and care
  • AS/NZS 1801:1997 Occupational protective helmets
  • AS/NZS 1337: 1992 Eye protectors for industrial applications
  • AS/NZS 2210.1:1994 Occupational protective footwear -- Guide to selection, care and use

Copies of standards can be obtained by contacting Standards Australia on 1300 654 646 or by visiting the web site at

Further information

Codes of Practice and other WorkSafe Publications

Safety in Forest Operations (Code of Practice No.12, 1990)

Health and Safety in Forest Operations -- recommended practices

Working Safely with Trees -- Recommended Practices for the Amenity Tree Industry

Note: This guidance material has been prepared using the best information available to WorkSafe Victoria. Any information about legislative obligations or responsibilities included in this material is only applicable to the circumstances described in the material. You should always check the legislation referred to in this material and make your own judgement about what action you may need to take to ensure you have complied with the law. Accordingly, the Victorian WorkCover Authority extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for your specific circumstances.

Special Note on Codes of Practice: Codes of Practice made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 provide practical guidance to people who have duties or obligations under Victoria's OHS laws. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 allows the Minister for Workcover to make Compliance Codes which will provide greater certainty about what constitutes compliance with the OHS laws.