Are you a … estate worker?

What you need to know

Most estates have a chainsaw, which may be used for everything from cutting firewood and topping fence posts, to thinning coppices and felling large hardwoods. Some estates use more complex machinery.

Chainsaws cause serious accidents in treework and you use one you should read Working with chainsaws. All forestry machinery, particularly chainsaws, should be used by people who:

  • Have been trained
  • Understand the risks
  • Know how to maintain the equipment in good working order
  • Know about the correct protective clothing
  • Know the communication arrangements


The free leaflet Chainsaws at work contains everything employers and workers need to know about working safely with a chainsaw.

If you use a chainsaw on or in a tree, you should have received appropriate training and obtained a relevant certificate of competence or national competence award. In agriculture, this only applies to first-time users of a chainsaw, unless:

  • It is done as part of an agricultural operation (eg hedging, clearing fallen branches, pruning trees to allow clearance for machines) by the occupier or their employees and
  • They had used a chainsaw before 5 December 1998 and
  • The work is being done by the estate owner or their employees.
  • Any overhead electric lines are further than two tree lengths from any tree to be felled
  • You have agreed with your local energy network operator when the power is to be turned off
  • You have agreed with your local energy network operator when the power is to be re- energised
  • The position of roads, footpaths, or public access have been taken into account, and warning signs or barriers provided, or roads closed if necessary the directional fall of the tree is known and suitable, with a clear escape route selected
  • No-one (including third parties) is within two tree lengths of the tree being felled
  • The operator has a secure foothold, an escape route and as clear a site as possible.

Circular saws

When using circular saws:

  • Always use push-sticks or log grippers.
  • Make sure all saw guards, including the riving knife, are in position. Adjust guards as close as possible to the work.
  • Regularly examine blades for cracks or missing teeth. Do not use any blades which have teeth missing, which are cracked, or which show signs of welded or brazed repairs.
  • Check that the blade will run at the correct speed, and that it is still sharp and correctly tensioned.
  • Ensure the saw bench is at a correct height, securely anchored, protected against the weather, and that you can disconnect the drive or power effectively. If it is tractor-powered, ensure the PTO guard is fitted and maintained.
  • Keep the circular saw in good working order.
  • Make sure it has a braking system if the rundown time of the blade after switching off power is greater than 10 seconds. This is not necessary on machines where the blade is fully enclosed while it comes to rest.

Other machinery

A standard estate tractor is not suitable for forestry use without substantial modification to protect vulnerable equipment, improve stability, and increase traction.

Winch tractors must be properly anchored by the use of spades, a winch butt plate or dozer blade. Winching is always better than towing, but if you must use a conventional tractor for towing, then attach the cable to the drawbar in its lowest position and in line with the direction of pull. Never tow across a slope.

When using log splitters, firmly position the timber before splitting begins, avoid splitting into a knot and never use hands or feet to hold the log in place during splitting.

Log loading cranes are potentially hazardous to people nearby. The operator must have a good view of the work area, and no one should be within the risk zone (twice the reach of the boom) or on the trailer during loading. Beware of overhead power lines.

Your employer should provide:

  • Suitable personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Adequate training for the job in hand, including training in how to deal with dangerous situations that can arise during the work, eg hung-up trees or clearance of windblow
  • Communication, transport arrangements and location details in case of an accident
  • First aid arrangements at the worksite.

Never use a chainsaw without the correct PPE - the risk of injury from the chainsaw cannot be controlled in any other way. Check that the PPE you provide or wear is to British or European Standards (BS or EN).

Working with chainsaws off the ground

Chainsaws should never be used off the ground unless the operator has been trained in safe working techniques. Work off the ground involving the lifting and lowering of people or loads, including work-positioning techniques will be subject to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).

Mobile elevating work platforms

When working at height, eg lopping overhanging branches that interfere with fieldwork operations:

  • Never access branches to be removed by using ladders, grain buckets, or by standing on the top of other machines
  • Always use a use a purpose-built platform such as a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP)
  • Never use a chainsaw while standing in a tree unless you have been properly trained. This requires specialist skills and a competent arboricultural contractor should be used.

Work from ladders

Do not use a chainsaw when working from a ladder. Chainsaws require both hands to be operated safely. Working from a ladder requires one hand to hold the ladder to maintain a steady position. Ladders are normally only used as a means of access into the crown of the tree.

Ropes and harnesses

Using a chainsaw from a rope and harness requires special skills. You should only do this if you have obtained the relevant NPTC Certificates of Competence for:

  • Climbing trees and doing aerial rescue
  • Using a chainsaw from a rope and harness.

Find out more

Farm and estate forestry operations Agricultural Safety Leaflet AS15(rev) only available from

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