Soil Association Audit of UKFCG – Audit Findings

Thank you to all the Owners and Forest Managers who were involved in this year’s audit, and to all members who were not included in the itinerary – submission of annual records for 2022 from all the certified forests in the Group was also an important part of the audit.

UKFCG membership now stands at 186 forests with a further 7 new members to be added in the next few weeks.  Total hectarage will be very close to 100,000.

Given the size of the Group and the range of forest sizes, managers and objectives, we are very pleased with the outcome of the audit.  Sixteen forests were visited by the Soil Association’s audit team, and UKFCG’s management of the Group was also subject of close scrutiny.

Only one Non-Conformity was reported.  This newsletter is an important part of the evidence which will be used to close the Non-Conformity.  Please ensure that you read and act on the requirements stated below.



Why is the NC graded as Major?  – This is a repeat occurrence following an NC on the same subject during the 2022 Soil Association audit of UKFCG

The context –  On an active harvesting site several timber stacks were seen to be well in excess of the product length.  Measurement confirmed heights of up to 4.5 metres with the product length being 3 metres.

The failing – The operational risk assessment did not include specific references in respect of the stack heights being higher than product length.  On further investigation, which included the SA auditor interviewing one of the forwarder operators, it was ascertained that a separate timber stack risk assessment had been prepared but this had not been communicated to the forwarder operators.

UKFCG requires all forest managers to take the following action:

  • Read UKFCG’s Briefing Note on Timber Stack Height – attached with this newsletter
  • We recommend that specific instructions in respect of timber stack heights are included in your harvesting/timber sales contracts.
  • Ensure that management of harvesting sites follows FISA Guide 503 – Extraction by Forwarder – attached with this newsletter
  • Ensure that Operational Monitoring includes checks of timber stack heights and identifies the likelihood of stack heights exceeding product length before it happens.
  • Ensure that an appropriate risk assessment is prepared for the overheight timber stacks and that this is communicated to forwarder operators.  The stack height risk assessment shall be made available for inspection during certification audits along with evidence that forwarder operators are aware of the requirements.
  • Ensure that any additional measures such as extra warning signs, taped off exclusion zones which are specified in the risk assessment are implemented.


  • Just a reminder that when applying for certification through UKFCG, every applicant has signed a commitment to comply with UKFCG’s Group Rules, these require a commitment to comply with all applicable certification standards requirements.
  • UKWAS section 5.4.1 requires conformance with FISA guidance.
  • This NC could easily have been avoided if the correct documentation and instructions to the forwarder operators had been in place.
  • Scrutiny of UKWAS 5.4.1 will be included in annual surveillance audits conducted by UKFCG.
  • In the event of over-height timber stacks being found on site, all the aforementioned documentation and worker instructions must be available at the time of the audit to avoid further sanctions.

If you require any clarification of the above requirements, please contact UKFCG as soon as possible.