Sawmill or timber yard worker

What they do

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.

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.

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.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a sawmill or timber yard worker you usually need to undertake a traineeship in sawmilling and processing (level 2 or level 3). The traineeships usually take 12 months to complete and the level 2 traineeship is available as a school-based traineeship.

Browse courses through Jobs and Skills WA and search on the My Skills website to find a registered provider near you.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.