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Sawmill or timber yard worker

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Summary of occupation

Timber mill workers process raw logs into timber, flooring, decking and other basic timber products. They carry out a range of manual tasks in the mill and operate the various machinery used to process the timber. Raw logs are stripped of their bark and other rough material and cut to the required shape and size using a variety of mechanical saws. The cut timber is then seasoned to keep the wood from shrinking or warping. Some timber may be seasoned by being left to dry in the sun and wind, however it is more commonly dried in specially designed kilns. Seasoned timber may be planed to give the wood a smooth finish or it may be shipped rough. The finished timber is examined to determine its grade and quality before it is packed and shipped to wholesalers.

ANZSCO description: Performs routine tasks in a sawmill or timber  yard such as sorting and stacking timber, assisting timber  machinists, assembling orders and racking offcuts.
Alternative names: Lumber Mill Worker, Sawmill Hand, Sawmill Operator, Sawmill Worker, Timber Mill Worker, Timber Mill Worker, Timber Production Technician, Timber Products Worker, Timber Yard Worker, Wood Processing Worker
Specialisations: Dry Mill Worker (NZ), Tailer-out
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A timber mill worker needs:

  • to be physically fit and able to lift heavy objects
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • a high level of safety awareness
  • the ability to maintain concentration and focus for long periods
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Working conditions

Most timber mills in Western Australia are located in the lower half of the state, particularly in the South West region, where the majority of commercial forestry operations are based. Timber mills are generally large operations with a number of sections, including log yards, green mills (for unseasoned wood), dry mills, kilns, despatch yards and maintenance workshops. Many employers will rotate staff through the different sections on a regular basis. The work is physically demanding, requiring heavy lifting, however many of the processes are mechanised and specialist equipment and technology is available to assist with many tasks. Timber mills are often noisy and dusty environments, with many dangerous pieces of machinery in operation. Safety is very important in these workplaces to minimise the risk of serious injury.

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Salary details

On average, sawmill or timber yard workers can expect to earn at least between $657 and $702 per week ($34 159 and $36 494 per year) depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a sawmill or timber yard worker develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Timber mill workers may operate a number of specialist machines including band saws, frame-saws, circular saws, planers, chippers and kilns. Machinery is also used to lift and move logs around the mill, including conveyor belts, forklifts and cranes. Callipers and measuring tapes may be used to measure timber, both before and after processing, with chalk or crayons used to mark the timber with measurements and other grading information. Timber mill workers are required to wear safety equipment, which may include safety glasses, hearing protection, steel-capped boots, hard-hats and high visibility clothing. Clothing must also fit well, as loose clothing may get caught in machinery.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a sawmill or timber yard worker you usually need to complete a traineeship. The sawmill worker and sawmilling technician traineeships usually take 12 month to complete. The sawmill worker traineeship is available as a school-based traineeship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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