Thinking five or six actions ahead: investigating the non-technical skills used with UK forestry chainsaw operations

Amy Irwin* (Corresponding Author), Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone, Paulina Sobocinska, Jason Liggins, Sofia Elisabeth Johansson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Non-technical skills (NTS) are the cognitive and social skills considered vital for safe and effective work performance alongside technical knowledge. The current study seeks to explore these skills in the high-risk domain of felling tasks within the UK forestry context.

Semi-structured interviews encompassing the critical incident technique were conducted with 25 forestry employees (9 chainsaw operators, 6 supervisors, 10 managers).

The results emphasise the relevance of NTS for chainsaw operations within the forestry context. A range of both social (leadership, teamwork & communication) and cognitive (situation awareness, decision-making, task management, cognitive readiness) NTS were identified. The elements and associated codes within each skill category illustrate the fit of these skills with the specific forestry context, with some elements entirely unique to chainsaw operations. A range of factors that could adversely impact NTS performance were also identified across five categories (external pressure, training and experience, environmental conditions, cognitive influences, individual constraints).

The results represent the first step towards developing a NTS framework and associated behavioural marker system for forestry chainsaw operations. Further research and development are required to produce a full system that can be used to support training and assessment of NTS in practice. However, the current results can be used to raise awareness of these skills within the forestry industry, and as support for the inclusion of NTS within chainsaw operator training programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106112
Number of pages12
JournalSafety Science
Early online date24 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data Availability Statement

Data availability
The data that has been used is confidential.


  • Forestry
  • Chainsaw
  • Non-technical skills
  • Situation awareness
  • Leadership


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