National Utility Arboriculture Conference "diverse, challenging and rewarding"
14th July 2010
Cunningham reverted to a style to which the conference delegates were more accustomed but his subject was no less engaging, bringing G55/2 to life with a mock power line hastily constructed in the lecture room. Hal McCallum (BTS Group Ltd), Frances Hirst (HSE) and Jez Lawton (independent trainer) posed as poles supporting the line while Cunningham waved foliage in various proximities - the audience being challenged to grade the "tree" as category A, B, C or D.
Much of the rest of the conference, fronted by the AA's Utility Arboriculture Group (UAG), focussed on keeping trees away from power lines. There was general support for the "new G55" (G55/2, 2008) which, written by arboriculturists rather than engineers does, in certain circumstances, enable the qualified arborist to work closer to energised (live) lines than G55/1. It was disappointing to learn that at least one Distribution Network Operator had felt it necessary to insist on "more stringent" requirements than G55/2 but it was perhaps more concerning to learn that some DNOs were still working to G55/1, and still others had not felt it essential to come to the nation's only utility arboriculture conference of the year. Speaker Will Porter (USA) told delegates how North American electricity distribution companies had benefitted from an extensive benchmarking exercise (a report co-authored by Porter and published this year). Energy Networks Association's Mike Leppard talked of his members' £60m spend on vegetation management, Central Network's Alan Daley and David McAlinden provided figures that suggested their spend had increased fourfold in as many years. The extensive sharing of information that took place at the national conference was greatly valued, including an update on the City and Guilds NPTC Utility Arboriculture certificates of competence by Steve Hewitt.
More research on tree growth patterns was disseminated by Dr Steven Humphries of ADAS (conference main sponsor). Later, Dr Margaret Samuel explained to delegates EDF Energy's enlightening and refreshing approach to employee welfare. Introducing Dr Samuel to delegates, UPM Tilhill's Martin Lennon explained that her special concern was for mental health and, after a brief glance at the audience, quietly warned her, "...you might have your work cut out here today...".
An aspirational wish-list of activities for the UAG's forthcoming year was tabled at the UAG annual meeting. UAG Chairman Paul Hornby (Associated Utility Supplies) remarked just how far the industry has come in recent years and the central role of the UAG in ...championing unified and nationally recognised standards in tree care and safety... since its formation in 2004.
As well as those in suits, the conference was designed to serve sharp-end operators (without whom there would be no utility arboriculture) and some impressive activities and trade exhibitions ensured there was something for everyone. The UPM Tilhill Safety Challenge competition winner was James Archer who walked away with a £500 cash prize from Tilhill and the team winning the AUS Utility Skills competition was from utility arboriculture contracting company West Coast Network Services - Director Karl Lee evidently proud of "his lads" who had beaten the other seven teams competing for the coveted AUS trophy. A philanthropic act by Oakwick Utility Arborists Ltd raised £250 for the county air ambulance by raffling a chainsaw.
A full report on the conference will be published in The ARB Magazine distributed to AA members and delegates will soon be able to download speakers' presentations from the AA's website.
Last Updated: 14/7/2010 6:23 PM