Forestry Workers

  • Michael HaeberleEmail author
Reference work entry


Infectious diseases transmitted by animals to humans represent 25% of all reported and compensated cases of occupational diseases among forestry workers in Germany according to the records of the German Workman’s Compensation Insurance of Agriculture.

Work-related injuries are the most frequent occupational hazards among forestry workers, followed by arthropod bites and arthropod-borne infections.

Forestry workers are at risk of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme borreliosis, tick-borne encephalitis, anaplasmosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, babesiosis, and rickettsiosis. The risk of transmission of Lyme borreliosis after a tick bite is 4%.

High seroprevalences of antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi in risk groups were found in Europe, up to 61.5% in Northern Poland.

Lepidopterism develops after contact with caterpillars, for example, Thaumetopoea processionea L. in oak forests and Thaumetopoea pityocampa in pine forests, and moths, for example, Douglas-fir tussock moth Orgyia pseudotsugata, due to the toxic protein in the caterpillars’ setae.

Forestry workers may develop hand–arm vibration syndrome symptoms of which are disturbances in the circulation of the fingers (vibration white finger) and peripheral nerves of the hands and arms, dependent upon the frequency with which the chain saw is used. Both exposure to cold in winter and the duration and intensity of woodwork enhance the risk of hand–arm vibration syndrome.

Occupational dermatitis attributed to plant irritants is the most common cause of sick leave among forestry workers in California.

Sap or latex from tropical trees, particularly Anacardiaceae, such as rengas tree (Gluta renghas), can cause an acute vesicular irritant dermatitis and conjunctivitis in woodcutters clearing rain forests.

Phototoxic plants growing at the edge of forests – for example, giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) containing furocoumarins – may cause phytophotodermatitis among forestry workers. Aromatic lichen acids may also provoke photosensitivity.

Poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron) – containing urushiol – lichens such as oak moss or tree moss, liverworts in undergrowth, ragweed (Ambrosia), and wood dust from tropical trees, containing, for example, dalbergiones, are the major contact allergens in the forest environment.

Patch testing of plants and plant extracts must be considered carefully in order to avoid active sensitization.


Forestry worker Traumatic injuries Occupational dermatitis Insect bite Tick bite Sting Trombidiosis Myiasis Caterpillars Lepidopterism Rhus toxicodendron (Poison ivy) Ragweed (Ambrosia) Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) Lichen Epiphytes Frullania (Liverwort) Wood dust (Sawdust) Alantolactone Atranorin Colophony (Rosin) Tree moss Urushiol Usnic acid Sun exposure Hand-arm vibration syndrome Pesticides Fungicides Cold or wet conditions 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dermatological PracticeKuenzelsauGermany

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