First day of Climbers Forum 2018 in Augsburg

The two half-day topics of the first day of the Climbers Forum in Augsburg were the evolution of harness design in arboriculture over the past half century and one-handed use of chainsaws.

I greatly enjoyed the harness evolution talks. They kicked off with Don Blair walking onto stage fully togged up in 1930’s arborist garb, accompanied by kilted bagpiper playing the theme tune of Star Wars. I was so engrossed I forgot to film it! Suffice to say that I was very entertained. For the show we assembled and exhibited a collection of 40 harnesses spanning the past 50 years, this is truly unique, I had never seen anything comparable before. I will try very hard to take some photos and to post them on this blog in the coming days. The overview of harnesses offers an unique opportunity to trace lineages of harness designs as well as identify innovative and/ or new features. It also documents designs that were tried but for one reason or another fell by the wayside, to not be incorporated into the following generation of harnesses.

Both Don Blair, as well as the following speaker, de Gourét Litchfield from Sweden offered fascinating insights from a pioneer’s perspective into how arborists’ harnesses were used in the past and how they have evolved to what we are familiar with today.

This was followed by a sofa session, where I sat down with Don, Peter Styrnol and Ulli Pfefferer to have a chat about the step change in harness design over the past decades. I really enjoy these informal conversations, as they offer genuine insight into how another person experienced an event or a period.

The afternoon was dedicated to the topic of one-handed use of chainsaws. After the presentation of the 2016 accident statistics by Carsten Beinhoff of the German Health and Safety, theses sessions continued Martin Götz of the H-team running through the design considerations of Husqvarna regarding top handle chainsaws, especially battery-powered ones. Martin, as well as Eric Hermansson, a product manager at Husqvarna, made very clear, unambiguous statements regarding what they consider to be safe use of this tool and resulting out of that their position as a manufacturer: two hands shall be used at all times. Husqvarna have modified their position in this matter. Where in the past they defined certain positions in which they said that one-handed use might be considered acceptable, the new user manuals no longer refer to these.

The afternoon was concluded by Philipp Frank, an osteopath from Zürich, Switzerland, explaining why and how eccentric, asymmetric loading, as occurs when one-handing a chainsaw can potentially cause extensive musculoskeletal damage. And finally, Knut Foppe took us on a whirlwind tour d’horizon, discussing risk, risk management – and humans’ propensity to cut corners.

And that was only day one!