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. 

Click across the tabs to view active and completed project stages. Consultation takes place at every stage of the project.

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. 

Timeline

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).

Application:

  • 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).

Application:

  • 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.

Benefits:

  • 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.

Benefits:

  • 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.


As part of this project, three tree felling units are being updated to improve deliverability while also supporting safety and competency. Consultation is taking place to determine an appropriate number of trees to demonstrate competent and safe tree felling at a basic, intermediate and advanced level, while also reducing barriers to training caused by limited availability of practice trees. The final draft units and User Guide were available on this webpage for validation and comment from 4 December to 17 December 2023.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) conducted a thorough review of all feedback received at the ‘Broad consultation’ stage. As a result, the number of trees to demonstrate competence at each level remained the same as proposed previously, specifically 3, 4 and 6 trees for the basic, intermediate, and advanced units, respectively. You can read more about the rationale for this decision below. The draft User Guide was also updated with further recommendations.

These improvements collectively support high standards of safety and robust assessment of competency, while reducing the barrier around availability of practice trees.

Summary of changes

The following improvements were made across all three units:

  • The skill statement in the Application section of each unit was revised to provide greater clarity and relevance to the prior skills and experience required at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels.
  • The phrase “a minimum of” was included before the specified number of trees in the Performance Evidence. This change emphasises that the number of trees specified is the minimum standard for assessment, allowing assessors the flexibility to evaluate competency on more than the prescribed number of trees if deemed necessary.

There has been an update on the equivalency status within the units. As a result of the changes made following industry consultation, the intermediate and advanced units will become not equivalent.

Information about the changes made to individual units is provided below.

Further details about feedback received during the ‘Broad Consultation’ stage and changes made in response are outlined in the ‘Summary of feedback’ document. Where feedback requests could not be implemented because they were outside the scope of this project, feedback will be carefully considered as part of our ongoing Workforce Plan, which guides our decisions on future initiatives.

Post-consultation Information Sessions

Online information sessions were held to provide further details about updates to the units following feedback from broad consultations, how to provide validation input, and what’s next as we move towards finalisation stages.

Friday 8 DecemberMonday 11 December

View Draft Units and Provide Feedback

Key changes

  • Removed the prescriptive specifications for chainsaw bar length from the Performance Evidence and replaced with “a chainsaw with a bar length appropriate to the tree’s diameter”.
  • Introduced new criteria in the Performance Evidence for demonstrating, at least once, the use of wedges in tree felling to safely manage the direction of a tree’s fall.

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).

Key changes

  • Clarified in the Performance Evidence that assessment tasks focus on hazards and risk assessment of site, surroundings, and trees; risk control measures; selection of appropriate cutting techniques; and the felling of a minimum of four trees with intermediate characteristics.
  • Added new criteria in the Performance Evidence for documented risk assessments for at least two additional trees, separate from the initial four. This documentation must detail localised hazards and risks associated with felling each tree using a chainsaw and specify methods to minimise these risks.
  • Clarified tree criteria in the Performance Evidence (about diameter and lean in relation to chainsaw bar length), specifying that the diameter at breast height is typically measured at 1.3 meters from the ground.

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).

Key changes

  • Clarified in the Performance Evidence that assessment tasks focus on hazards and risk assessment of site, surroundings, and trees, risk control measures, selection of appropriate cutting techniques, and the felling of a minimum of six trees with advanced characteristics.
  • Added new criteria in the Performance Evidence for selecting tree types to demonstrate skill at the advanced level.

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

SMEs highlighted the importance of providing an industry state of knowledge and minimum recommendations set by the industry, which can be documented and maintained through the new User Guide. Drawing a parallel with Australian standards, SMEs pointed out that while these standards are only recommendations and not legally enforceable unless incorporated into regulation, they do establish a baseline for industry knowledge. This baseline acts as a reference point for expected practices and standards within the industry, offering a framework or industry benchmark against which practices can be measured and evaluated.

Further to the previously included recommendations, SMEs strongly suggested that the User Guide include the following recommendations to support a high standard of safety and robust assessment of competency.

  • Logbook of Trees – Guidelines for Trainee Record-Keeping

It is recommended that trainers and trainees in tree felling diligently maintain a ‘Logbook of Trees’ throughout their training. This logbook can serve as a comprehensive record, documenting each trainee’s progression and accumulated experience throughout the training program.

The method for maintaining trainee records should encompass structured training sessions, followed by periods dedicated to practical tree felling activities. During these practical sessions, trainees should be mentored and supervised by experienced professionals such as lead trainers or qualified supervisors, ideally proficient in Training and Assessment. These mentors are responsible for guiding the trainees, ensuring they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.

The logbook should record either the total hours spent operating felling equipment, or the specific number of trees felled by each trainee. The training sessions and logging process should be conducted over a set period of time, ensuring that it is neither excessively lengthy nor unduly brief.

  • Implementing a Decision Summary in the Assessment Process

It is recommended that assessors should be able to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate how they arrived at their decision regarding a trainee’s competency. In this regard, a ‘Logbook of Trees’ for trainee record-keeping could be a useful tool.

Assessors are also advised to incorporate an ‘Assessment Decision Summary’ in their assessment protocols. This summary should concisely capture the evidence and considerations that underpin the assessor’s judgments regarding trainee competencies.

The ‘Assessment Decision Summary’ enables assessors to provide evidence and demonstrate the rationale behind their decisions concerning a trainee’s competency. Such documentation is critically important, especially in situations where the assessment process may be scrutinised during a Workplace Health and Safety review or subjected to a legal investigation. Insufficient or absent documentation may hinder the ability to provide a comprehensive and defensible account of the assessment process undertaken.

Summary of Consultation and Rationale for Retaining the Proposed Number of Trees for Skill Assessments

Responses regarding the proposed number of trees for assessment in the tree felling units have been mixed. Feedback revealed that there is a desire to have sufficient assessment evidence of learners demonstrating felling techniques to address safety considerations as well as potential legal implications in the event of serious injury involving a tree felling operator. These concerns must be balanced with the ability of training providers to obtain enough trees to deliver the training, so that all those who require training can access it.

The final draft of the units suggests retaining the number of trees to be felled at 3, 4, and 6 trees for basic, intermediate, and advanced skill levels, respectively, for assessing competency. This is a reduction of 1 for basic and 2 for intermediate from the original units before their 2023 release, with no change for the advanced unit.

SMEs considered that competency should not be assessed only on the tree felling ‘tests’ but rather encompass an evaluation of the candidate’s entire learning journey and efforts up to that point. They appreciated that being able to perform the task more than once is required to demonstrate consistent competence, as success on a single occasion is not indicative of sustained ability. SMEs supported the recommendation that each unit specify a sufficient number of trees and this specification should also encompass a range of tree types relevant to each skill level ensuring that individuals can demonstrate their competency across various tree types.

SMEs considerations that formed the basis of this decision included the following:

1. Standards for Training Packages

The Standards for Training Packages require that units of competency specify the frequency and/or volume of evidence needed to assess a student’s competency, in this instance, felling a certain number of trees. While no prescribed criteria exist for this in the Standards, the determination of the frequency and/or volume of evidence is typically based on advice from the unit’s users and the understanding that:

  • Assessment criteria establish a minimum, not a maximum standard; that is, assessors may choose to evaluate competency using more trees than the prescribed number.
  • Assessment reflects the individual’s demonstrated ability at a specific time, acknowledging that competency can change (evolve or degrade) over time.
  • The frequency and/or volume of evidence in the units concern only the assessment process. It is expected the training process will provide learners with sufficient opportunities to practice their skills and additional support to develop safe and competent manual tree felling skills.
  • Units of competency across various training packages often require assessment tasks to be done at least once. For some specifically high-risk work licenses, such as forklift and scaffolding, there is no defined task number, instead the focus is on the types of processes involved.

2. Competency Across Varied Tree Types

Considering the diversity of tree types, particularly those with intermediate and advanced characteristics, and the limited variety of basic-level trees, SMEs supported the recommendation that the assessment criteria for each unit should specify a sufficient number of trees and this specification should encompass a range of tree types relevant to each skill level.

3. Practical Analogies

SMEs emphasised the importance of extensive training practice prior to assessment, drawing a parallel to the Australia’s learner driver test model, where a learner must complete 120 hours of driving, but the actual driving test lasts no more than an hour. Further, SMEs argued that determining a candidate’s competency should not solely rely on a single assessment. Rather, it should encompass an evaluation of the candidate’s entire learning journey and the efforts they have invested up to that point. In support, they recommended that trainees in tree felling should diligently maintain a logbook of trees.

4. Assessor Responsibility

SMEs appreciated that assessors hold a moral responsibility to certify competency only when they are confident in an individual’s abilities, especially if the engagement with the task has been minimal during the training process.

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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. Outside of a forestry setting, the number of trees required for practice and assessment is challenging, as they can be difficult to access.

Stakeholders with expertise performing and training tree felling, including those who find it difficult to source trees, have volunteered their time throughout this project. As a result, the three tree felling units have been updated to reduce barriers to training related to access to trees, while also supporting safe and competent tree felling.

Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, learners and trainers will soon have access to skills standards that reflect a thorough consideration of learner safety and competence, while also supporting trainability so that learners who need these skills have a better opportunity to access them.

The final draft units have been submitted to the Skills Ministers for endorsement. This follows an anti-discrimination assessment process and consideration and support provided by the Senior Responsible Officers and the Training Package Assurance Body.

A Consultation Log was submitted alongside the drafts, including evidence of industry support for the changes made. A Companion Volume Implementation Guide has also been produced to assist industry and registered training providers (RTOs) deliver the units. It contains key information to help trainers adapt to the new changes, mandatory workplace requirements, pathways and VET in schools, and additional information about the impacts of regulation and licensing implications and workplace health and safety on their training. See below for copies of all documents submitted.

Key Outcomes

Updated units of competency

Updates were made to three tree felling units at a basic, intermediate and advanced level to support safety and competence of learners and reduce barriers to training, including:

  • A reduction in the number of trees required for assessment to 3 for the basic unit and 4 for the intermediate unit, with no change for the advanced unit. This is in comparison to the units’ version before the 2023 release.
  • Improved criteria for risk assessment across all skill levels to strengthen safety measures.
  • New Performance Evidence criteria in FWPCOT2275 Fell Tree Manually (Basic) for using the wedge technique, aimed at supporting competence in directional felling of trees.
  • New Performance Evidence criteria in FWPCOT3350 Fell Tree Manually (Intermediate) for selecting tree types based on varying diameters in relation to the length of the chainsaw bar and the lean of the tree to ensure competency in handling diverse tree types.
  • New Performance Evidence criteria in FWPCOT3351 Fell Tree Manually (Advanced) for selecting different types of advanced trees, ensuring a broad spectrum of competency across different types of trees.

The certificates II, III and IV in forest operations will also be updated to replace the existing tree felling units with the revised versions.

Companion Volume User Guide:
Fell Trees Manually

The Companion User Guide: Fell Trees Manually has been developed as an essential resource for registered training organisations (RTOs). This guide provides practical approaches to address challenges encountered in manual tree felling training. It supports the provision of training that is not only high-quality, safe, and effective but also optimises the use of tree resources in Australia. To achieve this, the guide:

  • Advises on essential skills and knowledge that trainees should possess prior to enrolling in manual tree felling units, ensuring that they are adequately prepared for safe and effective training.
  • Emphasises the necessity of thorough risk assessments and documented processes in tree felling for enhancing safety and compliance.
  • Underscores the importance of record-keeping as a tool for tracking trainee progression and experience, essential for determining readiness for skills assessment.
  • Suggests maintaining an ‘Assessment Decision Summary’ to provide evidence and justification for assessors’ evaluations of trainee competency.
  • Recommends the use of simulated environments before real-world practice for improving efficiency in using tree resources.
  • Details methods to leverage workplace infrastructure for performance evidence collection, optimising the use of available resources, including trees designated for felling.
  • Identifies strategies for forming partnerships with stakeholders to address the challenge of limited tree availability for training purposes.
  • Sets out recommended age limits for enrolment in manual tree felling units and concludes with a compilation of useful training resources.

Recommendations for further investigation

Consultations throughout this project have identified several critical needs to advance training delivery and enhance the quality, safety, and sustainability of tree felling operations. These are outlined below and will be included as priorities in our next Workforce Plan, which provides information to guide decisions on future initiatives.


Simulator technology for chainsaw tree felling training

Simulator technology provides an important opportunity to improve hazard awareness and enhance safety and training efficiency. Utilising simulators can reduce the number of trees required for training and reduce errors when practicing on real trees.


Partnership protocols for tree allocation for training

There is a need to develop clear protocols for identifying and sharing trees that can be used for training purposes. Strategic partnerships could help promote sustainable resource management and reduce the strain on some training providers who experience difficulty sourcing trees. This would require consultation with relevant stakeholders, such as commercial forest managers and government departments.


Development of learning and assessment resources

There is a need for nationally consistent learning and assessment resources to support training providers and promote uniformity and quality in training across various regions.


Challenges in establishing prerequisites

Considerable feedback was received regarding prerequisite units, which was outside the scope of this project. As they are currently written, the units and Companion Volume User Guide leave discretion to RTOs in determining learner suitability to undertake each level of tree felling unit. While there is strong stakeholder support for prerequisites to provide additional guidance on learner suitability, this was outside of the scope of this project. Given the complexity of the issue, we have compiled a document outlining stakeholder preferences at this stage and explaining the Challenges in Establishing Prerequisites for Tree Felling Units. The topic has been recorded in the Issues Register as something to be consulted on and addressed in a future, in depth review of the units.


Further improvements to the units

Stakeholder feedback has also indicated a need for more distinct differentiation between units at each skill level, especially concerning the size and complexity of trees for training at the basic and intermediate levels, which currently overlap. This has been noted to be addressed in any future review of the units. The current project was a fast-tracked project to address the concerns around access to trees for assessment and therefore did not have scope for this additional work.

Documents being prepared for submission

See accordions below for a list of documents being submitted and to download the final drafts.

FWPCOT2275 Fell trees manually (basic)
FWPCOT3350 Fell trees manually (intermediate)
FWPCOT3351 Fell trees manually (advanced)
QualificationUnit/s to be updated
FWP20122 Certificate II in Forest OperationsFWPCOT2275     Fell trees manually (basic)
FWP30122 Certificate III in Forest OperationsFWPCOT3350    Fell trees manually (intermediate)
FWPCOT3351     Fell trees manually (advanced)
FWP40121 Certificate IV in Forest OperationsFWPCOT3351     Fell trees manually (advanced)

Key project submission documentation:


Other supporting evidence referenced in the Submission Form:

Summary of Consultation to Date

Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time and expertise throughout this project. At the start of the project, subject matter experts in chainsaw tree felling operations and safety were identified and invited to provide their input and guidance. They met four times as a Technical Committee between 7 September and 17 November 2023, meetings which were followed up with multiple emails, to discuss the delivery issue, propose solutions, review the feedback received from broad consultations, and agree on changes to the units.   

Draft documents were made available on this webpage at two stages, during the ‘broad consultation’ stage from 17 October to 14 November 2023 and again at the ‘validation’ stage from 4 December to 17 December 2023. Feedback was encouraged and reported via surveys, email, phone calls and online meetings.

Broad Consultation

  • 73 items of stakeholder feedback collated via online surveys, email, phone calls and online information sessions
  • 30 attendees across three online information sessions held during October and November

Validation

  • 39 items of stakeholder feedback collated via online surveys, email, phone calls and online information sessions
  • 34 attendees across two online information sessions held in December

All feedback has been recorded in the Skills Insight database and responded to individual stakeholders. You can view below a summary of feedback from the ‘broad consultation’ stage and the ‘validation’ stage together with how this has been considered and addressed.