New guidance has been published setting out safe working procedures for Scotland’s forestry sector in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said the documents contained “clear guidance to help a gradual and safe restart over time”.
With Scotland now in phase one of Nicola Sturgeon’s four-part plan for easing out of lockdown, outdoor forestry operations can restart from next week.
According to the guidance, some activities within the sector – such as travel to and from sites – will need additional control measures to enable social distancing, with enhanced hygiene regimes also required.
It also highlights the need for the cleaning of shared equipment and welfare facilities on sites, and says only the minimum number of people needed for a task should be working.
Mr Ewing said the forestry sector had “already made a vital contribution to the current Covid-19 response”, with workers producing materials used in the building of emergency coronavirus hospitals set up throughout the UK, as well as the pallets necessary to transport food and medical supplies.
As Scotland moves out of lockdown the sector will be involved in the “green recovery” that ministers want to see, he added.
The guidance has been produced by the Scottish Government together with industry bodies Scottish Forestry, Forestry and Land Scotland, Confor, the Forest Industry Safety Accord and the Forestry Contracting Association, with unions and workers’ representatives also consulted.
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 beginning next week, 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.”