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Module 01: Safety In Forestry & Wood Technology

ryanrori November 1, 2020

1.1 The Forestry & Wood Technology Value Chain

1.1.1 Elements Of The Forestry & Wood Technology Value Chain Are Identified & The Interrelation Between The Various Elements Are Described

Part of a large value chain

Each part of the value chain brings value to the end product, the Company core business, the Company values and principles, and its overall mission and vision.  If an integral part or link in this chain were to fail, the Company cannot realize its full potential.  The parts together create sustainability for the business and its people.

Process flow for Forestry value chain from Nursery to Sawmill including the following elements of a value chain:

  • Nursery and tree propagation
  • Holding nursery


Figure 1 and Figure 2: Nursery practices

  • Silviculture
  • Site preparation: Mechanized destumping
  • Site preparation: pre-planting weed control – manual, semi-mechanized & mechanized
  • Planting: manual & semi-mechanized
  • Planting: fertilizing – manual & semi-mechanized

Figure 3: Mechanized planting operation

                                                                                                        [Fiori: Source – L van Vugt]

  • Watering: manual & semi-mechanized
  • Maintenance: weed control – manual, semi-mechanized and mechanized
  • Maintenance: pruning – pulpwood & saw timber manual & semi-mechanized
  • Maintenance: coppice reduction – manual & semi mechanized
  • Fire protection: burning firebreaks
  • Fire protection: fire fighting
  • Harvesting
  • Thinning: motor-manual & mechanical
  • Felling: motor-manual
  • Felling: Semi & full mechanical
  • Debarking & debranching
  • Infield stacking & loading


Figure 4: Mechanized Harvesting

[Source – SA Forestry]

In broad terms, the silviculture and harvesting aspects include:

  • Site preparation, planting and fertilizing
  • Growing and tending up to canopy closure
  • Managing, including maintenance (pruning, weed control) and fire protection to felling
  • Harvesting including felling, crosscutting and stacking

Figure 5: Silviculture & Harvesting Sustainable Management Cycle

  • Extraction and Transport
  • Infield loading
  • Extraction: manual, mechanical skidding & cable-yarding
  • Short-haul extraction transport


Figure 6: Mechanized self-loading forwarder

  • Depot loading
  • Long-haul transport


Figure 7: Ground & Cable based timber extraction systems

  • Road construction and maintenance
  • An effective road maintenance program to ensure delivery of product to depot the depot and processing plants
  • This is performed strictly in accordance with legislation and company polices.

Figure 8: Road grader


Figure 9: Excavator based forestry road maintenance

  • Environmental practices
  • Forestry companies are regulated and audited annually by the Forestry Stewardship
  • Council (FSC).
  • FSC Certification ensures sustainable forestry practices of renewable natural resources.
  • Large forestry companies have their own environmental management programs and environmental departments, managers, officers and facilitators.
  • These services extend to the greater company including contractors, open areas and processing plants.

Figure 10: Forestry Stewardship Council

Process flow for Wood Technology value chain from Receiving to final product including the following elements of a value chain:

  • Offloading at lumber yard: road and rail
  • Lumber yard: stacking
  • Lumber yard: transfer into processing plant
  • Processing primary & secondary products
  • Joining
  • Final product
  • Stacking & storage
  • Dispatch
  • Kilns
  • Boilers
  • Facilities & Hygiene
  • Maintenance: electrical and mechanical
  • Fire protection


Figure 11: Paper Mill Process flow

1.2 The Purpose Of SHE In The Forestry & Wood Technology Sector

1.2.1 The Importance Of SHE In The Above Value Chain Is Evaluated & Justified

The evolving forestry & lumber milling industry and the impact on SHE practices

Figure 12: Woodcutter of Knysna Forest circa 18

Millwood Museum, SanParks, Department of Forestry

  • The settlers and their impact on natural timber

Settlers, arriving first in the Cape in 1652 and extending through to early 1900, including Dutch, British, German, French, Indian and other marginal groups, had a profound effect on the indigenous forests of South Africa.  The Dutch ‘discovered’ the forests west of George in 1711. European settlement started in the middle 1700s when the pioneers moved into Outeniqualand to farm, fish and cut timber. The Dutch East India Company extended its control over the forests in the 1770s by establishing woodcutter posts at George and Plettenberg Bay.  With the advent of the Colonization of the Cape and Natal, the Great Trek, mining, general industry and war, amongst other factors, placed great pressure on the indigenous forest resources available.  The way in which timber was harvested, e.g. use of axes which damaged cambium layers which in turn affects regrowth, also affected the overall sustainability of the indigenous forests.  It is estimated that 4% of the overall surface area of south Africa at the time of the first settlers constituted indigenous or natural forests.  Today, only 1% of surface land area, or 25% of the original natural forests occurring in South Africa.

  • The demand for processed timber products

Figure 13

                                  [Millwood Museum, SanParks, Department of Forestry]


The expansion of the settlers and colonization led to an increasing demand of timber and forest products. The settlers cut timber from the forest for building, carts and wagons, and later railway sleepers, buildings, furniture and mining struts. Portions of forest, bush and shrubland were also cleared for crops and grazing.

In Natal, the cutting of trees was done with axes or two-man crosscut saws. The trunks were cut in pits, on makeshift trestles, or in mills which were constructed at the forests. At first vertical saws were used in these, though some circular saws were in use by the 1850s.

The first exotic timber plantations were established in Concordia (north of Knysna) in the early 1880s with the goal of augmenting the timber from the indigenous forests, which could no longer meet the demand for timber.

In the 1800’s foresters realized that the sources of indigenous timber would soon be depleted. There is a popular assumption that plantations threaten the indigenous forests, but this is in fact not the case.

Plantations actually protect the forest in the following ways:

  • Provide protection from fire (only if the plantation does not catch fire and burn)
  • Provide an alternative timber resource
  • Form a nurse stand for the expansion of forest (although only temporary as the plantation
  • Development of industry (general and forestry) in SA & global markets

During the 1900’s most of the indigenous land was under Government control and a formal department of forestry was established. Most of these state-owned forests were closed to the public.  The Government also established commercial plantations and sawmills.  Private growers, co-operatives and corporate companies have also emerged to create a self-sustaining timber economy in South Africa.  Research and development have advanced with seed and tree improvement centres, research and technology advancements.  Saasveld School of Forestry was established in order to train foresters in advanced sustainable forestry techniques.

About 82% of commercial plantation areas in South Africa have achieved the global Forest Stewardship Council certification. The history of forestry in South Africa is a remarkable story of the parallel actions of protecting a very small indigenous resource, while creating the substitute plantation resource that has satisfied the demands of a growing population, and creating an export-oriented and competitive industry.   Forestry has supported a vital rural industry, contributed to the growth of infrastructure, expanded technology into remote rural regions, and substantially grown human capital through an integrated and adaptive programme of research and innovation, a blend of “scientific indigenous forest management and plantation forest”.

This coherent programme involved parallel but integrated programmes of genetics, silviculture, forest management technology, and wood product development, and this eased the burden on natural forests. Continuous innovation that focused on silvicultural practices and technology, and the quest for timber quality improvement culminated in products suited to market needs and the innovation continues today. The commercial forest sector has been proactive, leading the world in certification and adapting to the special social requirements in South Africa, hence supplying the market with certified products derived from sustainably managed forests

Forestry and her related industries have grown into a science with diversified sections and disciplines, each of which requires very specific set of knowledge and skills.  This coupled to the production of world class products has placed South Africa in a strategic position in terms of local and international trade, with export markets of pulp fibre, fine paper, structural timber, newsprint and more.

Figure 14: Modern Paper Mill


  • Human resources and mechanization

Historically forestry, also referred to as logging, was considered labour intensive and as a result there was always sufficient human resources willing to work for poor wages.  Over the years the forestry industry has emerged as a vital economic partner for sustainable growth and income in South Africa.  Apart from working conditions and wages improving considerably, the availability of labour and skills is less available, with a move towards better paying and less physically demanding work.  Forestry is moving from labour intensive work to “decent work” philosophy, which includes semi and fully mechanized / modernized equipment.  These changes have been initiated and driven by a need for higher production, unavailability of skills, cost of labour and minimizing the exposure of people to unsafe working conditions.

Local Government & Global philosophy

  • Sustainable forestry practices
  • Responsible SHE practices & forestry stewardship
  • The need to identify unsafe acts and conditions in the workplace, and those factors harmful to the environment and communities.
  • The need to reduce SHE related risks, incidents and fatalities by introducing systems, control measures and engineering
  • The need to control risk by maintaining systems & analysing statistics