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Forest Service Updates Safety Policy for Saw Use

WASHINGTON, JULY 19, 2016 AT 1:30 PM EDT - The U.S. Forest Service today finalized a policy that will provide for nationally consistent training, evaluation and certification requirements for the use of chain saws and crosscut saws on National Forest System lands. The new policy governs the use of saws by Forest Service and other governmental employees, volunteers, training consultants and cooperators on lands managed by the Forest Service.

“This policy ensures that our employees, our volunteers and our partners will consistently have the best knowledge available and, in the end, be safer when using saws in National Forests,” said Leslie Weldon, deputy chief for the Forest Service’s National Forest System. “The change also means that if sawyers are certified in one region, they are eligible to work in any of our regions.”

Since the 1970s, the agency’s nine regions developed regional policies on the use of chain saws and crosscut saws. Sawyers covered by those policies often maintained trails on national forests and grasslands, helped fight wildfires and worked in wilderness areas where cross cut saws are required. Employees, cooperators and volunteers who worked in more than one region had to comply with multiple regional policies and certifications obtained in one region but not always honored in another.

Under the new national directive:

  • Current sawyer certifications will remain valid until they expire.
  • Cooperators have one year, until July 19, 2017, to meet the new requirements.
  • Sawyers must comply with U.S. Department of Labor minimum age requirements, which limit use of chainsaws to those who are at least 18 years of age and use of crosscut saws to those who are at least 16 years of age.
  • Partner organizations, like the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Back Country Horsemen of America, may develop their own training and certification programs that meet the requirements in the final directive.
  • Like Forest Service and other governmental employees, cooperators, volunteers and training consultants, Forest Service contractors are subject to applicable federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements governing the use of saws. However, contractors are not subject to the final saw directive because the Agency does not believe it is necessary or appropriate to track their training and certification as sawyers given their role and responsibilities as federal contractors.

More information about the policy is online.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 30 percent of the nation’s surface drinking water to cities and rural communities and approximately 66 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.  The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 900 million forested acres within the U.S., of which over 130 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Distribution channels: Agriculture, Farming & Forestry