NEW guidance has been published setting out safe working procedures for forestry operations in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic – with outdoor operations able to resume this week.

Produced in collaboration with Scottish Forestry, Forestry and Land Scotland, Confor, the Forest Industry Safety Accord, and the Forestry Contracting Association, the documents give the industry “clear guidance to help a gradual and safe restart over time,” Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said.

The Scottish Government’s Framework for Decision Making route map sets out a five-phased approach to easing lockdown restrictions while still suppressing COVID-19. The forestry sector is covered by Phase 1 (Non-essential outdoor workplaces with physical distancing resume once relevant guidance agreed), and phase 2 (Non-essential indoor, non-office-based workplaces resume once relevant guidance agreed – including factories and warehouses, lab and research facilities – to reopen with physical distancing) with lockdown being Phase Zero

The guidance states that restart is likely to be possible only on a phased basis and is subject to three pillars: assessment of the success of measures to suppress the virus and to prevent a resurgence, including the ability to test, trace and isolate further cases effectively; having the right structures in place for advice, compliance and building resilience within sectors considered for phased restarting; and having in place a solid framework of guidance to support fair and safe working in all workplaces and sectors.

Mr Ewing said: “Easing out of lockdown will only be successful if we do so gradually and cautiously. The focus of the Scottish Government remains on tackling the virus, protecting public health and saving lives, but we are also acutely aware of the need to support vital sectors of the economy, such as forestry, to resume their activities safely.

“I welcome the fact that outdoor forestry operations can all now restart...but it is vitally important that physical distancing is observed at all times to ensure this is done safely, and which reassures everyone that no-one’s health is put at unnecessary risk.

“The forestry sector has already made a vital contribution to the current COVID-19 response. Throughout lockdown, many businesses and workers in the sector undertook essential business activity, to produce construction materials for emergency COVID-19 hospitals built throughout the UK and the pallets which are essential for transporting medical supplies and equipment and food.

“They were able to do this safely and securely and I commend them for their contribution. The safe working guidance to support the forestry sector’s operations – ranging from tree planting, weeding, surveying, inspection, and deer management – will ensure this continues to be the case.”

The documents COVID-19 Forestry Sector Restart & Resilience Plan and Forestry Sector Safe Working Guidance can be accessed here.

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