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Skills for SES volunteers to safely remove or secure fallen trees

Each year, workers are seriously injured or killed during tree felling and related activities. Australian data indicates about 65% of fatalities occur during tree felling, 20% during trimming or lopping and 7% during cutting or clearing of felled material. Particularly vulnerable are volunteers and emergency services personnel, who only undertake tree felling as an occasional task for which they may have limited skills and experience.

The danger facing SES volunteers was discussed at the Australian Council of State and Territory Emergency Services (ACSES) meeting in August 2018, where it was agreed that new competencies were needed to be developed in the Public Safety Training Package to address tree safety requirements in complex emergency operations such as storm events. Severe storms can cause trees to fail from their root plates, the part of the root system that supports the tree. Compression forces can make these fallen trees spring back or move in unexpected ways and cause injury.

In response, the Public Safety Industry Reference Committee (IRC) has commenced a project to develop three new Units of Competency and one Skill Set aimed at the capability requirements for SES volunteer members to safely remove or secure fallen trees.

A Tree Safety Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), made up of subject matter experts, has been established by the IRC. The TAC will develop skills standards regarding assessing trees for compression forces, developing a plan for managing tree compression forces and using equipment to stabilise and support trees during an operation.

As the SES representative on the Public Safety IRC, the Manager Learning and Development Paul Wallworth from Victoria State Emergency Service is pleased to see the TAC forming to consider this issue, “we as an industry need to equip our volunteers as best we can to perform important tasks for their communities during emergencies.  The outcomes from the TAC will further improve the Public Safety training package to meet this aim”.

The Case for Endorsement will be submitted to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) by 30 September 2020. The Public Safety IRC will have oversight of this project, which will be facilitated by Australian Industry Standards (AIS) in consultation with industry stakeholders.

Read more about the project here.

SES Tree Safety