Using a chainsaw to fell trees is a crucial skill in forestry operations, agriculture and arboriculture, as well as in emergency events like storms, cyclones and bushfires. Manual tree felling skills are essential for removing trees in locations or positions that make the use of large machinery unviable. This skill may also be required in environments such as development, construction, landscaping, and parks and gardens. 

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These skills are described in three units of competency which specifically outline the number of trees required to be felled in order to demonstrate competence at a basic, intermediate and advanced level. 

Some training providers have indicated that the number of trees required at each unit level has an impact on their ability to deliver training, as practice trees can be difficult to source outside of a forestry environment. It is crucial that these units are accessible to train, so that everyone who performs tree felling work can access formal training. This must be balanced with the need for learners to demonstrate felling techniques many times, so they have the skills and confidence to perform the task safely in the field.  

In 2022 the tree felling units were reviewed as part of the broader Responding and Assisting in Bushfires Project and updated to reflect feedback about accessibility of training. Further industry and training provider feedback has indicated a need to reexamine the units, so that they can best support the safety and competence of all learners. Consultation will take place throughout this project to review the three tree felling units and consider how many trees are required to demonstrate each skill level and what other mechanisms may be needed to support safety and competency.  

In devising solutions, consideration will be given to safety standards, accessibility of resources, competency development and training resources. 

Units to be reviewed:  

Relevant Occupations 

The occupations relevant to this project are workers that use chainsaws to fell trees including forestry workers, arboriculture workers, gardeners, farm workers and authorised personnel within fire services, state emergency services and parks and wildlife services. 

A Note About Teach out Periods

We are aware the teach out period for FWP20121 Certificate II in Forest Operations and FWP30121 Certificate III in Forest Operations ends in December this year. These qualifications contain superseded versions of the tree felling units, which have been recommended for use while the current units are being considered for update as part of this project. A 12-month extension to the teach out period has been sought from the Australian Skills Quality Authority, so RTOs will still be able to train these units while the project is underway. This application is currently being processed by the Australian Skills Quality Authority. 


Project Team

Georgiana Daian

Project Manager, ForestWorks [email protected] 

Paul Cavicchia

Cross Functional Team Member, ForestWorks [email protected]

Subject Matter Experts  

Subject Matter Experts (SME) will be drawn on throughout this project to help review and draft the revised units of competency. 
If you are interested in applying to be a subject matter expert and are able to volunteer your time to this project, please email details of your expertise to  [email protected] 

Opportunities for stakeholder input 

The project team invites input on potential solutions to the outlined challenges. Key areas of focus include safety, efficiency and sustainability with respect to training delivery and skills assessment.  

Suggestions so far from interested stakeholders have included: 

Extensive training prior to assessment

Stakeholders stress the need for comprehensive training before students are evaluated for competence in felling live trees. Assessment should only occur once a trainer is confident there is no risk to the student. 

User Guides for units

Development of support guides to help training providers implement the units safely has been suggested. 

Prerequisite Units

Recommendations have been made to include the basic (foundational) tree felling unit as prerequisite for advanced ones. Candidates should have robust knowledge of chainsaw use and basic tree felling practices before they proceed to more advanced levels. 

Partnership for Performance Evidence

Training providers could leverage third parties (employer/supervisor) to gather proof of student performance from their workplaces. This envisages using live digital videos, video recordings, or third-party observations and does not necessarily require an assessor’s physical presence.

Virtual Reality and Simulators for Immersive Learning

The use of virtual reality and simulators has been suggested to complement traditional methods by allowing students to practice various and dangerous tree felling situations in a secure environment.

These and other suggestions will be assessed in detail with subject matter experts during the development stage in August and September in preparation for broad industry consultation in October. 

Stakeholder input is appreciated throughout the duration of this project. The units will be drafted in consultation with subject matter experts and their networks. Opportunities to provide targeted feedback will occur when the draft materials are made available in October 2023, and again for validation of final drafts in November 2023. However, your feedback is welcomed at any time, and will help us in drafting the units. It is important that training provides a skilled and flexible workforce for the future. The units need to reflect real work experience. So if you work in the sector, Skills Insight would love your input and help. Please feel free to register your interest in project updates and consultation opportunities by following the newsletter subscription link above. Alternatively, please feel free to contact the project manager, Georgiana Daian on 03 9321 3519 or [email protected]

Stakeholder Consultation Process

A list of key stakeholder organisations has been identified for this project. Skills Insight and ForestWorks will ensure contact is made with each of these organisations during the development of this project to seek their involvement and their views on the draft units. Consultation is not limited to the organisations on this list. This list simply helps us to identify those organisations that, because of their industry role, size or specialty, are likely to have a key interest in the development and outcomes of this project. 
If you are aware of an organisation that you think should be involved, please contact the project team to ensure they are contacted by us. 
Of course, all and any interested industry participants are encouraged to engage in the consultation of this project, when the draft units are available for feedback via this webpage and workshops that take place.

This project is part of the 2022-23 Annual Training Product Development Plan.

The skills for felling trees using a chainsaw are described in three units of competency at a basic, intermediate and advanced level, which specifically outline the number of trees required to be felled to demonstrate competence. 

Feedback from some training providers has indicated that the number of trees required at each unit level is a barrier to training as they are difficult to source. It is important these units are accessible to train, so that everyone who performs tree felling work can access formal training. However, it is also vital that learners experience the most effective approach to teaching and assessing so that they are equipped with skills to operate safely in a wide range of conditions. 

Stakeholders including trainers and industry are being consulted to review the three tree felling units and consider how many trees are required to demonstrate each skill level and what other mechanisms may be needed to support safety, accessibility, and competency.

A survey was conducted from 7 to 11 August to gain deeper insights into the challenges faced by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in sourcing the required number of trees. 

All 127 RTOs that have at least one of these units in their scope of registration were invited to participate in the survey. The survey received responses from 53 individuals, representing 38 organisations. 

Of respondents, 68% reported challenges in acquiring the required number of trees. Within this group, 42% managed to overcome these challenges but noted that the issues persist and continue to impact them. The remaining 26% indicated that they faced difficulties specifically in executing the actual training. Those who had no issues finding trees understood and empathised with the challenges of their peers.

Consistent themes emerged across RTOs and a range of solutions were proposed. 

Download the full report on the survey results below to find out more about common themes and possible solutions.

Development Outcomes and Next Steps

In September, the project’s technical committee will engage in a sequence of workshops. The focus of these workshops will be to explore effective teaching strategies that highlight best practices, with particular attention to safety and tree efficiency. 

In addition to this, the committee with consider progressive competency assessments and specific metrics which must be met by learners prior to cutting real trees. Recommendations for mentorships and work placements will also be part of these discussions.

The outcome of these discussions is anticipated to be the establishment of a comprehensive framework. This framework will encompass safety protocols, support the quality of training, and optimise efficiency in tree usage. This approach is intended to offer a structured and sustainable direction for revising the assessment criteria, specifically addressing the number of trees that must be cut to demonstrate competency. 

Draft units and relevant documentation will be available on this webpage in October, giving other stakeholders an opportunity to provide feedback. Your input is welcome.

The three units that describe the skills for felling trees with a chainsaw specify a specific number of trees required for demonstrating competency. The number of trees required is important for the safety of learners but is increasingly presenting a barrier for training providers as environmental and heritage preservation measures make access to trees for this purpose more difficult. 

In consultation with stakeholders, the three tree felling units were reviewed and updated where applicable to improve deliverability, while also supporting safety and competency. They were made available for review and feedback on this webpage from 17 October to 14 November 2023. Thank you to those who provided feedback during this time. Your input will be used to inform further updates to the drafts, which will be available for validation and comment shortly.

The basic and intermediate units were updated to decrease the number of trees required for assessment to 3 and 4 respectively. Chainsaw bar length specifications were added to both units and criteria to consider tree characteristics have been added to the intermediate unit. An introduction statement was also proposed to be added to both units, recommending individuals undertaking the unit have appropriate pre-existing skills. 

For the advanced unit, the number of trees required for assessment was proposed to remain at 6 as described in the 2020 version [FWPFGM3217 Fell trees manually (advanced)], due to the complexity and higher risk when working with trees at this level. The statement recommending pre-existing skills and knowledge was already present in this unit.

A User Guide and a series of other recommendations were alsodrafted to promote safety for learners and address the issue of tree availability.

Factors guiding proposed unit changes

Safety first

Tree felling with a chainsaw carries inherent risks, requiring high quality training and assessment. While prioritising safety and proficiency, proposed changes to assessment criteria take into account the varying risk factors of felling trees at each skill level — from basic to advanced.

Holistic approach

Tree felling is perceived as an integrated process, rather than a series of isolated tasks. The proposed changes intend to maintain this holistic perspective.

Genuine Skill

Proposed changes consider the minimum number of trees needed for an assessor to reliably determine learner competency across diverse situations. It is important that learners can demonstrate manual tree felling skills across several attempts, so assessors can be confident they posses genuine skill, especially considering the high-risk nature of the activity.

Summary of consultation to date

In September, consultations with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) were conducted to review the number of trees required for competency demonstration in each of the three tree felling units. These discussions also identified further ways to support safety. SMEs convened for three online meetings and numerous emails were exchanged.

Note on pre-existing skills statement

The introduction of prerequisite units for tree felling learners emerged as a significant safety measure proposed by SMEs to ensure learners embark on their training already equipped with essential skills and knowledge to support a safe training and assessment process. 

After extensive discussions with the SMEs and a rigorous review with the Quality Assurance team regarding potential options for prerequisite units, it was determined that none of the available options are compliant with the Training Package Products Policy

As an alternative, the SMEs agreed to integrate a statement in the Application sections of both the basic and intermediate units, emphasising the value of prior experience. Such a statement already exists in the advanced unit. Further explanation has also been provided in the Draft User Guide.

Online information sessions

Online information sessions were held to provide further details about changes to the units and how to provide feedback.

Tuesday 24 October, 10 – 11amThursday 26 October, 3:30 – 4:30pmWednesday 1 November, 12 – 1pm

View Drafts and Provide Feedback

Summary of changes
Performance Evidence:

  • Tree number for assessment proposed to decrease from 4 to 3.
  • Added chainsaw bar length specifications: 14-20 inches (35-50 cm).


  • Introduction of a statement that recommends individuals undertaking this unit must have appropriate pre-existing skills and knowledge or experience operating a chainsaw before enrolling in this unit to ensure safety during training (see note above).
  • Clarity provided on the basic tree characteristics, specifying diameter in relation to chainsaw bar length. Specifically, a tree’s diameter at this level should not exceed the length of the chainsaw bar.

It is important to clarify that the proposed changes are based on the 2020 version of the tree felling units, given that the 2023 version was deemed unsuitable. The 2020 version of this unit is FWPCOT2253 Fell Tree Manually (Basic).

Summary of changes
Performance Evidence:

  • Tree number for assessment proposed to decrease from 6 to 4.
  • Newly added criteria consider tree characteristics (diameter and lean) in relation to the chainsaw bar length.
  • Added chainsaw bar length specifications: 16-24 inches (40-60 cm).


  • Introduction of a statement that recommends that individuals undertaking this unit must have appropriate pre-existing skills and knowledge or experience operating a chainsaw before enrolling in this unit to ensure safety during training (see note above).

It is important to clarify that the proposed changes are based on the 2020 version of the tree felling units, given that the 2023 version was deemed unsuitable. The 2020 version of this unit is FWPFGM3216 Fell Tree Manually (Intermediate).

Summary of changes
There are no proposed changes for the advanced unit. The tree requirement for assessment remains 6 due to the complexity and higher risks tied to trees at this level. The statement for pre-existing skills and knowledge or experience appropriate to this level is already articulated in the advanced unit.

It is important to clarify that the proposed changes are based on the 2020 version of the tree felling units, given that the 2023 version was deemed unsuitable. The 2020 version of this unit FWPFGM3217 Fell Tree Manually (Advanced) is proposed to be reinstated as is.

The certificates II, III and IV in forest operations will be updated as part of this project to replace the existing tree felling units with the revised versions. Feedback was welcomed via email.

QualificationUnit/s to be updatedView draft
FWP20122 Certificate II in Forest OperationsFWPCOT2275     Fell trees manually (basic)Download draft qualification
FWP30122 Certificate III in Forest OperationsFWPCOT3350    Fell trees manually (intermediate)
FWPCOT3351     Fell trees manually (advanced)
Download draft qualification
FWP40121 Certificate IV in Forest OperationsFWPCOT3351     Fell trees manually (advanced)Download draft qualification

A draft user guide was created for the tree felling units to complement the support provided through proposed unit changes.

What is inside the user guide?

  • Guidelines on recommended entry requirements for the units, emphasising safety and risk assessment responsibilities.
  • Guidelines for supporting the delivery of the units, taking into account the challenges faced by RTOs due to limited availability of trees for training and skill assessment.
  • An industry-recommended age limit for enrolment in the units.

A draft companion volume was also created to assist  industry and registered training providers (RTOs) deliver the units.

Feedback was welcomed via email.

The proposed adjustments to the units are intended to alleviate some of the difficulty with tree availability but cannot entirely resolve the issue. The Subject Matter Experts (SME) have discussed and proposed further approaches that could ease the challenges faced by training providers in accessing trees for training and assessment.

Suggested approaches are outlined here. Please note that these suggestions are outside the scope of our current project. However, we invite you to share your interest in participating in further discussions to progress these recommendations.

Email your expression of interest to [email protected].

Your input will be used to inform the Jobs and Skills Council (JSC) annual workforce plan, which informs future JSC activities, and may lead to additional project work to aid training delivery and support student outcomes in tree felling.

Suggested approaches

1. Forming Strategic Partnerships for Tree Allocation

Recommendation: Establish relationships to identify trees that can be utilised for training purposes.

Types of partnerships proposed:

  • Commercial forest partnerships: facilitate training on trees designated for thinning.
  • Government body partnerships: enable strategic allocation of public forest resources.
  • RTO-to-RTO partnerships: where geographical location allows, establish collaborations with trusted RTOs that have access to trees for training to facilitate the sharing of candidates and, possibly, theoretical and practical training resources.


  • Promotes sustainable and streamlined resource utilisation.
  • Distributes resource management responsibility, reducing the load on training providers.

2. Implementation of Simulator Technology

Recommendation: explore the potential of simulator-based training as a supplementary tool to traditional methods.


  • Improves hazard awareness, thus elevating safety and efficiency in tree felling operations.
  • Minimises risk of error on real trees, reducing the quantity of trees felled for training purposes.

This stage has not yet commenced.

At the validation stage, we check our work with stakeholders to confirm that solutions are in line with expectations.

This stage has not yet commenced.

At the finalisation stage, final checks are conducted and the outcomes of the project are submitted to the Department for consideration. Following this, outcomes are published or enacted.