Logging machinery operators (NOC 8241)

About this job

People in this occupation:

  • operate cable yarding systems, mechanical harvesters and forwarders and mechanical tree processors and loaders to fall, yard and process trees at logging sites
  • work for logging companies and contractors
  • should be physically fit and enjoy working outdoors and in remote settings
  • should also have a strong mechanical ability since they often work with and maintain machinery
  • must be comfortable working in a team setting
  • should have knowledge of safety procedures due to hazardous working conditions
Common job titles
  • chipper, mobile whole tree
  • operator, bunk skidder
  • operator, cable yarding / yarding engineer
  • operator, mechanical harvester
  • operator, pulpwood / shortwood harvester
  • operator, slasher saw / slasher loader

Duties

In general, workers in this group operate machines to harvest, transport and process timber. Specific duties depend on the type of machinery used. The following descriptions are typical for a large logging operation. Within smaller logging operations, a worker might perform several or all of these duties.

Mechanical harvester and forwarder operators:

  • evaluate logging sites and terrain prior to logging
  • use various heavy equipment to fall (cut down trees) and delimb (remove branches)
  • cut logs into specific lengths, which are sent to a collection point (forwarding) where they are bundled and loaded on a truck to be sent for further processing

Mechanical tree processors and operators:

  • use machines for the same operations as mechanical harvester and forwarder operators (except falling) at landing sites

Cable yarding operators:

  • use machines, steel cables and chains to transport logs after they have been felled and prepared by rigging slingers
  • use an array of cable yarding techniques

Work environment

Workers in this group work outdoors and are subject to a variety of weather conditions. Work environments can be challenging since conditions often include loud machinery, unstable ground and steep slopes. Hazards such as trees falling and cables snapping are also present. All work sites make safety the number one priority and follow strict safety regulations to reduce risks of such hazards.

Most workers in these occupations work full time, however, most work is generally done during winter months when logging typically takes place. As a result, these workers are not typically employed throughout the full year. Seasonal work can vary depending on the location of the work (i.e., coastal versus interior regions).

Shifts vary from 8–12 hours depending on the worker's position and the location of the work. Longer shifts are more common in logging camps as well as in the northern and interior parts of the province where there are less operating days in a year. Overtime is more common in logging camps. Rotating shift work is also common. Operators typically work 40–50 hours per week.

Since job sites are often located in remote areas, workers may be required to travel and remain on site for extended periods of time.

Insights from industry

Employment in the forestry sector was hit hard by the world recession in general, as well as by the collapse of American home building. It reached record lows in 2008 and 2009, with work 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.

In the short term, new jobs will be created in B.C. in response to the need to harvest pine beetle damaged wood. There may continue to be activity in B.C.'s interior after the pine beetle problem has been taken care of. Other species of timber that are ready to be harvested have been left untouched since most resources have gone towards solving the pine beetle problem.

Also, as the economy recovers, good opportunities for job seekers will continue due to the limited number of experienced workers available to fill openings that arise from job growth and retirements.

Across B.C. high retirement rates and the inability of most firms to recruit and retain young workers to replace retirees are contributing to a labour shortage in this occupation. Many experienced machine operators have left the forest sector to seek work in the Mining and Oil and Gas industries, which previously offered more consistent work and similar pay. In addition, most new, young workers interested in machine operation also looked for work in the Mining, and Oil and Gas industries for similar reasons.

Negative public perceptions of the forest sector and the unwillingness of many young people to live outside of urban centers is also making it difficult for logging companies to find new workers. This problem is expected to worsen over the next five to 10 years as more workers retire.

Advances in technology will negatively affect demand for some forestry occupations, as they allow more work to be completed with fewer workers. The use of more advanced equipment and mechanization will continue to result in the elimination of some entry level positions and a need for more skilled workers.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Workers in this occupational group can progress to more advanced machinery operating positions with experience. Promotion to logging and forestry supervisory positions is also possible but rare.

Some workers may purchase their own equipment and operate as contractors.

Additional resources