TREE cutters attended a special two-day forum last month which dealt with everything from mental health, accidents and climbing techniques to healthy eating and the body language of trees.

Following a very successful first event last year, UK Power Networks organised a second forum for staff and contractors across its network area.

It was held in the grounds of Orsett Hall in Essex and attended by around 250 people whose work involves trees. The days were a mixture of informal indoor and outdoor events with practical demonstrations.

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Graham Barton, safety and compliance manager at UK Power Networks, said the first event proved so popular that this year some sessions were made longer to meet demand and new sessions were added.

He said: “The event gives everyone an opportunity to get back to the grass roots of health, safety and well-being – utilising the skills of professional speakers and trainers to reflect on our safety culture and tackling the causes, the prevention and the effects of incidents.”

He was pleased that it had been very successful with positive feedback from attendees.

UK Power Networks’ new recruit, tree cutter Andrew Stiff, said: “I, and a lot of other people, enjoyed the Medi-arb stand the most. It was useful seeing the bandages being used for intense bleeds which is more the sort of injuries we are likely to find out on site.

“The forestry talk on London plane trees and a new disease threatening them was really useful. It’s something all tree surgeons should know to look out for and report as soon as they may find it in this country. Mixing and sharing past experiences and accidents was very useful too.”

Among the new professional speakers was Patrick Ball, who shared his life story involving alcohol and drug addiction. Patrick explained he wanted employees to be able to talk to their managers and to notice if workmates were having problems.

Steven Kirby, the victim of an horrific near-fatal workplace accident led sessions about recovering from trauma, mental health challenges that arise from accidents and the importance of following safety protocols.

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Another well-attended session was about the ‘body language of trees’ where attendees heard about how to read trees by the scars they bear and how the environment is currently causing damage to tree stocks.

Ben Rose and David Daniel from Arbskills ran practical sessions using a tree in the grounds to demonstrate how to safely self-rescue.

Sessions on practical first aid were very popular and included the importance of being proactive with safety rather than reactive and not to consider every day the same. The sessions also stressed how important it is to have the knowledge and skills to deal with an incident.

Plans are already in place for a similar event next year.