Chain saw and skidder operators (NOC 8421)

About this job

Chainsaw and skidder operators work together to prepare sites for logging and harvesting. These workers operate chain saws to fell, delimb and buck trees, and operate skidders to move or yard the felled trees from the logging site to the landing area for processing and transportation. 

People in this occupation:

  • generally work for logging companies and contractors, although some of are also self-employed
  • should be physically fit and enjoy working outdoors and in remote settings
  • should have a basic mechanical ability since they often work with and maintain machinery
  • should be comfortable working in a team setting
  • should also have knowledge of safety procedures due to hazardous working conditions
Common job titles
  • chaser - logging
  • feller - logging
  • landing bucker / faller and bucker
  • operator, chain saw / logging tractor
  • pieceworker - logging
  • worker, forest logging
  • chaser - logging
  • feller - logging
  • landing bucker / faller and bucker
  • logger / lumberjack / horse logger
  • operator, chain saw / logging tractor
  • pieceworker - logging

Duties

Chain saw and skidder operators:

  • Operate chain saw to fell, delimb and buck trees at the logging site and loading area
  • Operate cable, or grapple skidder to move or yard the felled trees from the logging site to the landing area for processing and transportation
  • Assess site, terrain and weather conditions before felling and yarding trees
  • May work as member of a team rotating between chain saw operation and skidder operation
  • May maintain and perform minor repairs on skidders, chain saws and other equipment.

Work environment

Rotating shift work is common in this occupational group. Operators typically work 40–50 hours per week. Shifts range from 8–12 hours, depending on the worker's position and the work location. Long shifts and overtime are more common in logging camps. Long shifts are also more common in northern B.C. due to the shorter operating season.

Chain saw operators and skidder operators work outdoors in various weather conditions. Working conditions include noisy machinery, unstable ground and steep hill slopes. As well, workers are expected to work independently or at a distance from co-workers at times. 

Working conditions have improved for skidder operators in recent years as most machinery cabs are now equipped with heaters and air conditioning.

Job sites are often located in remote areas. As a result, workers may have to travel and remain on site for extended periods of time.

These are very dangerous occupations and there are risks associated with being near falling trees. All work sites follow strict safety regulations due to the hazardous nature of the work.

Insights from industry

Employment in the forestry sector was hit hard by the world recession in general, and it was also particularly impacted by the collapse of American home building. It reached record lows in 2008 and 2009, with employment in the sector nearly 8,000 jobs less than in the previous five years. Labour market conditions for the industry are expected to recoup lost ground in the coming years as the economic recovery strengthens and U.S. home construction increases.

As well, some jobs will be created in response to the need to harvest pine beetle damaged wood, but many openings will arise from retirements or from those who leave the industry to pursue other careers.

There is currently a shortage of fallers in B.C. Factors including an aging workforce, increased harvesting due to the pine beetle problem in the interior, as well as an exodus of many current fallers are contributing to the shortage. Recruitment is difficult due to the part year and hazardous nature of the work, as well as negative public perceptions of the Forestry and Logging industry.

Advances in technology will also likely negatively impact this group since these advances allow more work to be completed with fewer workers. Industry sources report that logging operations on the B.C. coast will use more mechanized skidding and harvesting equipment due to an increase in selective logging operations as more second growth timer is harvested. This will result in an increase in demand for skidder operators, while also gradually decreasing the demand for fallers and chainsaw operators in that region.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Chainsaw operators and skidders may work within either job with relative ease. Many skills are transferable, and these workers can move into other logging-related jobs, such as logging machinery operators.

With additional education and training, workers may get wood processing or sawmill machine operating positions.

Progression to supervisory positions, such as bullbucker, is possible with experience. In the past some experienced personnel have started operating their own contracting companies.

Additional resources