6.6 Working in the Woods – copy

Natasha Birsa

Working in the Woods


  • NEVER drink water from stagnant sources.
  • All water sources should be considered with extreme caution.
  • Do not push over snags or deliberately dislodge rocks that may injure other workers.
  • Stay focused. Maintain hydration and blood sugar levels to keep alertness up and fatigue levels low.
  • Always use practical knowledge; always be aware of your environment and the hazards associated with the terrain or situation you are working in. Postpone field work and/or move to alternative work area if required.
  • Be aware of the potential for overhead hazards such as snags and widow makers.




Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI) Prevention
  • PPE & Risk Assessment
    • Ensure your footwear supports your feet properly
      • Appropriate tread for the tasks (caulks v. lugged)
      • Adequate ankle support
    • Carry loads close to your body and secured to avoid unexpected weight movement.
      • Proper vest size, backpack or other.
    • Continually assess the terrain and make appropriate choices
      • Another person’s trail may not be safe for you.
    • Safe Movement Habits
      • Learn how to move your body to minimize wear and tear (i.e. don’t jump).
      • Warm up, stretch, and prepare your body for the activity.
      • Incorporate lower body stabilization exercises into your regular routine.
      • Avoid bending your knees past 90 degrees when possible.
      • Practice specific trunk (core) exercises to help support the lower back.


Walking in the Woods
  • Ensure that you have safe footing at all times
    • Step carefully and look at where you are going
    • Slips, trips, and falls become more likely in brushy, wet, or snowy ground.
  • Assess your path 20 meters in front of you.
  • Always look for alternate routes when your safety is in question.
    • The most direct route is not always the best route
  • Gloves should be worn at all times when walking in the woods to prevent hand injuries.
  • Boots must be tied up, in good condition (with sharp caulks), and knock the snow off of your boots regularly.
  • Avoid walking on unstable windfalls and walk-logs.
    • If you must cross them, use extreme caution, especially over streams and gullies.
  • Be careful when walking below fresh cut banks in the road during heavy rains.
  • Rocks and gravel may slough down
  • When working in brushy ground, ensure that you use eye protection (hard hat visor and/or safety glasses)
  • Watch for sticks that could poke your eyes and ears as well as scratch your face, even when you have your visor down.


Working in Steep Ground
  • When in brushy or steep ground, keep a minimum safe distance of 3m from other employees
  • Never jump onto, or off of, logs or rock bluffs.
    • Step down carefully or choose an alternate route
    • Use extreme caution and try your footing first when negotiating rock bluffs or steep slopes.
      • Move slowly and maintain 3 points of contact when climbing up or down.
    • Hike around bluffs or steep terrain whenever possible.
    • When walking across a slope, carry any equipment on the downhill side for quick ejection in the event of a slip, trip, or fall.
      • The equipment will fall away from you instead of on top of you.
    • When walking downhill ensure that you see the ground.
      • Many times small rock outcrops, holes, or unstable materials are obscured by thick vegetation.
    • Flag/ribbon safe route locations through rough/difficult terrain


Working on Snow Covered Ground
  • Be careful when walking when there is snow or icy conditions as your caulks will not penetrate frozen ground/wood as well
  • Be aware that snow can cover hazards
  • Be aware that rain gear can cause you to slide at high speeds and significant distances in steep terrain.
    • Be mindful when walking near bluffs
  • Snowshoes are made available when required


Walking on Logs or Windfalls
  • Assess logs for loose bark, height above ground (<3m), and strength before walking on them.
  • Logs with loose bark or ones covered with moss can be very dangerous. Walk around them.
  • Ensure your caulks are sharp and will provide adequate traction on walk logs.
  • If required to climb off a log mid span, climb down the uphill side if possible.
  • To prevent breaks, sprains, and strains step down carefully from obstacles. NEVER JUMP.
  • When lowering yourself down off of logs or heights be aware of hidden objects that could cause injuries (i.e. pungy’s)


Crossing Creeks or Canyons
  • Before you go down into a canyon, ensure that there is a way out to avoid getting stuck.
  • Do not cross directly above a drop-off or waterfall…think of the consequences in the event of a slip or trip…
  • Caulk boots will slip on rock. Take extra care when walking across rock.
  • Take some time to search for a safe ‘walk log’ across small creeks.
  • If you do not feel comfortable crossing a creek, do not do it.
  • Do not cross over or wade through fast flowing creeks.
  • Be aware of rising creek levels due to rainfall or snowmelt.


Heat Stress
  • Heat stress can harm or even kill people working under very hot conditions.


Cold Stress
  • Anyone who works in cold weather is at risk for cold stress but especially those who work in temperatures ranging from -5°C to -20°C.



  • Hypothermia Symptoms
  • Frostbite Symptoms


To reduce the risk of cold stress:

  • Keep your head and neck covered
  • Warm layered clothing
    • Polypropylene long underwear
    • Wool sweater
    • Insulated, waterproof, and wind-breaking jacket
    • Rain pants/waterproof ski pants
    • Remove layers if beginning to sweat
  • Protect your hands and feet
    • Waterproof, lined winter boots (avoid wearing caulks below -10°C)
    • Waterproof, insulated winter gloves (carry an extra pair of mittens)
  • Stay hydrated – avoid drinking only coffee or tea
  • Emergency supplies: cold exposure survival kit in pickup. Temporary shelter kit with ATV/snowmobile.
  • Pace yourself. Fatigue can increase the risk of cold stress.