Lifting equipment in forestry

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. These pages explain how they apply to forestry.

What is lifting equipment in forestry?

Any equipment that lifts or lowers loads, including:

  • processing machines that lift as part of their function, eg:
    • tree harvesters
    • bed processors
  • extraction machines that lift as part of their function, eg:
    • cable cranes
  • machines fitted with log loaders, eg:
    • forwarders
    • clambunk skidders

What is not lifting equipment in forestry?

Equipment that does not lift or lower loads, for example:

  • wire rope skidders, under normal conditions of use
  • the three-point linkage on a forest tractor, if used to lift implements and machines that are designed to be operated as such on a tractor

Planning and organising lifting operations

Lifting operations should be:

  • properly planned
  • appropriately supervised
  • carried out in a safe manner

It is particularly important that:

  • workers have appropriate training and instructions so that they can ensure that lifting equipment is safe to use
  • people planning a lifting operation have adequate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of planning similar lifting operations
  • work is organised so that, where practicable, loads are not carried or suspended over people and where possible people should not walk or stand under loads that have been left suspended

Suitability of lifting equipment


Ensure that lifting equipment is strong enough for its proposed use. This should not be a problem for forestry machines when used for their normal design purpose, ie handling trees and timber.

When used for other purposes assess that it is strong enough for the job. This would include activities such as lifting:

  • grab tanks for fuel, oil or urea
  • items with chains, slings or hooks
  • unusual loads such as pipes for culvert building etc

The load and anything attached to it should also be of adequate strength. This would, for example, apply to the bar on a grab tank designed to be clasped by a log loader grapple.


Ensure that lifting equipment will not collapse or overturn when working. The risk can be reduced by:

  • selecting equipment appropriate for the products to be handled given the slope and terrain of the forestry work site
  • training operators in the limitations of the machine
  • planning the harvesting pattern and extraction routes to avoid lifting on side slopes
  • ensuring tyres are inflated to the correct pressure
  • using stabilising equipment such as outriggers and articulation brakes/locks
  • locating cable crane winch units on level ground with suitable points for anchoring
  • selecting trees of adequate strength with suitable anchor points to rig cable cranes
  • selecting firm and level areas for timber stacks

Lifting people

See Lifting equipment in arboriculture for further information.

Positioning and installation

Position and install lifting equipment to reduce to as low as reasonably practicable:

  • the risk of the equipment or the load striking people or
  • the risk from the load:
    • drifting
    • falling freely or
    • being released unintentionally

Minimise the need to lift loads over people. Check that:

  • cable cranes are located so that operators and others are not exposed to:
    • unacceptable risks from the crane or
    • the loads carried by the crane or
    • secondary lifting/processing operations at the landing area
  • where timber is being lifted on or near areas to which the public have access, effective measures have been taken to prevent unauthorised access to the work area

Fit lifting equipment with suitable devices to minimise the risk of the load falling freely. Make sure that:

  • cable cranes extracting downhill have a suitable device to protect against the uncontrolled descent of the load if the hauling cables are overloaded (for example, an emergency control which lowers the skyline or a suitably rated safety strop between the carriage and the haul-back line)
  • chokers on cable cranes are self-tightening or can be adjusted to keep the load securely attached

Safe working load (SWL)

Every item of lifting equipment, including accessories, must be clearly marked to indicate its SWL – the maximum load the equipment can safely lift – and information on the SWL of any machine or accessory used for lifting should be available to the operator.

Where lifting machines have a fixed configuration, the SWL should be marked on the machine.

Where the SWL depends on the machine's configuration, then the operator will need information to keep both machine and loads within the safe working limits for any particular configuration.

During forestry operations ensure that:

  • cable crane operators have a chart showing the SWL of the machine for the rack length depending on the strength of the cables used on the machine. Discuss these calculations and agree them with the chokerman before work on the rack starts
  • operators of equipment fitted with log loaders have a chart or diagram (clearly visible at the operating position) that shows the SWL for any radius of the loader. This can be, for example, a SWL plate or a load radius diagram
  • accessories are marked with any information needed for their safe use. The use of labels or colour coding is acceptable. Examples of this in forestry include:
    • where polypropylene chokers of different strengths are used they will need to be distinguishable from each other
    • slings, shackles etc used in the rigging and support of cable cranes should have their SWL marked

Thorough examination

Thorough examination of lifting equipment is to protect both operators and people in the vicinity of lifting operations who may be at risk if the equipment suddenly failed.

Lifting equipment used to lift loads will require a thorough examination by a competent person. This includes but is not limited to cable cranes and other forestry machines that lift as part of their function.

Tree harvesters and forwarders equipped with appropriate protective structures (ROPs, FOPs & OPs) AND being used where no-one can be affected by lifting failure will not require thorough examination.

Further advice on thorough examinations is available.

Maintenance and Inspection

In addition to TExT, additional maintenance and inspection at suitable intervals is a requirement of PUWER. Typical intervals will be daily/pre-use, 50 hours/weekly and longer periods e.g. 500 hours.

Exact intervals will need to be based on risk assessment, taking into consideration factors such as the manufacturer’s instructions, the nature of the task and conditions of use as well as other factors that contribute to wear and tear. The work must be carried out by a person who is competent to do so.

Reports and defects

A person making a thorough examination for an employer (competent person) should notify defects and make a report of the examination.

The competent person should notify the employer immediately of any defect which in their opinion is or could become a danger to people. They should also send a copy of the report to HSE where they consider there is an imminent risk of serious personal injury.

Operators carrying out inspections should report any defect in the equipment which in their opinion could become a danger to people and as soon as practicable make a record of the inspection in writing.

Where a defect has been notified ensure that the lifting equipment is not used before the defect is rectified and it is rectified within the time specified in the report.


Copies of EC declarations of conformity for any lifting equipment should be kept as long as the equipment remains in use.

Information contained in any thorough examination report should be kept available for inspection.

Other legal requirements

LOLER has links with other health and safety legislation which you need to consider when applying the Regulations.


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