Background

A farm worker was struck and killed by a falling tree. The incident occurred while he was helping a farmer cut down trees and create a burn pile. The farmer had not seen the incident and discovered the deceased within the work zone.

Safety issues

WorkSafe Victoria wants to raise awareness of safety issues involving:

  • tree and branch felling hazards
  • methods of communication (e.g. handheld radios)
  • lines of sight for machine (e.g. chainsaws) operators
  • lack of training or awareness of risks

Recommended ways to control risks

Tree felling can be a hazardous activity. Employers need to provide systems of work that ensure safety, including:

  • removing people from the potential tree felling zone (at least a distance of 1.5 lengths from the hazardous tree)
  • keeping people at least a distance of two crown widths from trees when broken limbs are visible
  • keeping all people within the line of sight of machine operators, or within designated safe areas
  • utilising appropriate communication methods to confirm safety and tree clearances
  • keeping other workers, bystanders and children away from the work area

Be aware that projectiles such as tree limbs can be thrown from falling trees or bounce off the ground when they fall.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004, employers must provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment for their employees (including independent contractors) that is safe and without risks to health. This includes obligations to:

  • provide and maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health
  • provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees as is necessary to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health

In addition, if work involves machinery and equipment (plant), there are specific duties and obligations you need to comply with under the OHS Act 2004 and OHS Regulations 2017. The Plant compliance code gives you practical guidance on how to comply with those duties and obligations.

Should you have any questions please contact WorkSafe Victoria Advisory on: 1800 136 089