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Safety first! Acute danger for workers clearing windblown forests

Published: 18 January 2000


"Forest operations in wind damaged forests are highly dangerous even for well-equipped and trained professionals," according to Mr. Thomas Grünenfelder (Swiss Forest Agency), leader of the Joint FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Acute Forest Damage. Following the 1990 storms 31 forest workers were killed in Switzerland while performing sanitation cuttings and over 50 in Germany. Many of these were forest owners performing dangerous logging without the necessary technical and safety skills and equipment. Already two lives have been lost in Switzerland during the forest cleanup following the December 1999 storms.

The forest cleanup will take many months. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE PUBLIC ENTER ANY WINDBLOWN FOREST STANDS. Extreme caution should be exercised both now and in the future to avoid accidents from leaning trees and falling trees and branches. Furthermore forest workers and forest owners should receive special training in harvesting windblown timber and safety before starting work in clearing damaged stands.

A Manual on acute forest damage: managing the impact of sudden and severe forest damage (ECE/TIM/DP/7) is available on the ECE Timber Committee website dedicated to following the storm damage at: www.unece.org/trade/timber. This manual to help foresters faced with storm damage was prepared by a team of specialists under the Joint FAO/ECE/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training, led by Mr. Grünenfelder. It contains detailed advice on 1. initial actions following storm damage, 2. damage survey and reporting, 3. action planning, 4. harvesting operations, 5. marketing windblown timber, 6. reforestation, and 7. evaluation of actions undertaken in response to acute forest damage.

"Clearance of windblow" is a section in the 1998 ILO Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Forestry Work, (ILO Publications, International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. Contact Mr. Peter Poschen, Forestry and Wood Industries Specialist, ILO, Geneva, +(41 22) 799 6188).

For further information please contact:

Mr. Kit Prins

Chief, Timber Section
Palais des Nations, room 456
United Nations Economic Commission
for Europe (UN/ECE)
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41 22) 917 2874
Fax: +(41 22) 917 0041
E-mail: Christopher.Prins@unece.org
Website: http://www.unece.org/trade/timber

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05