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Alternative chainsaw competence certification

Author:  Simon Richmond
  12/12/2023
Last Updated:  14/12/2023

Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer

Download AFAG Position Paper

After several years of investigation, development and negotiation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has concluded its study of the way in which chainsaw certification from outside the UK may be applied under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER).

This work has been undertaken with support from representatives of the Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group (AFAG) and working with both UK and European Awarding Organisations. The final HSE Position Paper was published following ratification at the AFAG meeting on 6th December 2023.

As many will be aware, the current position is that the only acceptable proof of evidence that a chainsaw operator meets the PUWER requirements for adequacy of training is to hold certification, fondly known as ‘chainsaw tickets’, issued by the two UK Awarding Organisations, City & Guilds/NPTC and Lantra. For many years, operators who were trained and certificated elsewhere in the world have had to undertake further assessment in the UK to achieve the required tickets to legally work here. This HSE position has been based on the principle that chainsaws are associated with a high risk of injury, and there had been a lack of reliable evidence that certification from other countries was sufficiently robust, or at the appropriate standard, for it to be accepted in the UK.

In recent years, the European Chainsaw Certificate (ECC) has been developed by the European Forestry and Environmental Skills Council (EFESC)1 and this offers a very similar range of units to those available in the UK. This research and development have resolved some of the uncertainties, and while the HSE is reticent to specifically endorse any particular country’s training or certification programme, it has analysed the key factors which, it believes, provide reassurance of high-quality and consistently robust standards. The HSE’s Position Paper states:

HSE expects any scheme, award or qualification to have, as a minimum, the following elements or characteristics:

  • Be carried out to a common standard at least equal to existing schemes (e.g. NPTC/C&G or Lantra qualifications) by competent assessors with provision for independent assessment2, where necessary, as set out in the PUWER Approved Code of Practice3 and Industry Guides (e.g. FISA 805).
  • Include arrangements for assessors to meet (e.g. every two years) to set levels of acceptable performance from assessors and users.
  • Have internal and external verification mechanisms to ensure assessment delivery is reliable and consistent and in line with other providers and Standards (e.g. National Occupational Standards (NOS)).
  • Ensure those bodies that award qualifications are independently overseen by a recognised body, such as the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).

AFAG recognises that any party, provider or organisation may wish to offer chainsaw assessment certificates or qualifications for work on or in a tree. If the provider or organisation(s) behind the scheme can show it contains the elements above, or something equally as good, it should deliver adequate user assessments for the purposes of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and other relevant Statutory Provisions.

In some ways this is really good news for the arb and forestry sectors, both of which are still struggling to meet the recruitment challenges of the last few years. Anything that makes employing competent people less arduous, complex or expensive is to be welcomed. On the other hand we must all hope that this development does not reduce or undermine the minimum work standards that we all expect. It certainly does not increase confidence in the reliance on a paper trail to evidence competence: the need for adequate supervision of all operators, and new recruits in particular, is stronger than ever.


  1. www.efesc.org/european-chainsaw-certificate
  2. ‘independent assessment’ has an element of separation from training by time (allowing consolidation) and person (somebody who didn’t deliver the training, unless a QA mechanism for checking control of conflict of interest is in place).
  3. www.hse.gov.uk/pUbns/priced/l22 PUWER ACOP.pdf

This article was taken from Issue 203 Winter 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.