Forest Service Finalizes Saw Safety Policy

Forest Service contractors are subject to applicable federal OSHA requirements governing the use of saws, but contractors are not subject to the final saw directive because USFS stated it does not believe it is necessary or appropriate to track their training and certification as sawyers.

The U.S. Forest Service on July 19 finalized a policy that establishes nationally consistent training, evaluation, and certification requirements for the use of chain saws and crosscut saws on National Forest System lands, governing the use of saws by Forest Service and other governmental employees, volunteers, training consultants, and cooperators on lands USFS manages.

"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."

There are nine USFS regions that have developed regional policies on the use of chain saws and crosscut saws since the 1970s. Sawyers covered by those policies often maintained trails on national forests and grasslands, fought wildfires, and worked in wilderness areas where cross cut saws are required; according to the agency, sawyers who worked in more than one region had to comply with multiple regional policies and certifications that they obtained in one region but weren't always honored in another region.

The new national directive says that:

  • Current sawyer certifications will remain valid until they expire.
  • Cooperators have until July 19, 2017, to meet the new requirements.Sawyers must comply with U.S. Department of Labor minimum age requirements, which limit the use of chain saws to those who are at least 18 years old and the use of crosscut saws to those who are at least 16.
  • Partner organizations such as 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 directive.
  • Forest Service contractors are subject to applicable federal OSHA requirements governing the use of saws, but contractors are not subject to the final saw directive because USFS stated it does not believe it is necessary or appropriate to track their training and certification as sawyers.

The U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages 193 million acres of public land and has a role in stewardship of about 900 million forested acres within the United States.

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