H&S: Helmets.

I've heard a few people say that 'arb' helmets should not be used on the ground, which always struck me as slightly odd when they are built to withstand a stronger impact than the standard forestry helmet (arb helmets area built to EN12492, forestry helmets to EN397).

So, in a bid to clarify the situation, I contacted the Health & Safety Executive to find out what the actual answer was - here's the reply from Dr Andrew Turner, the Principal Inspector of Health & Safety in the Agriculture, Forestry and Arboriculture Team...

"Dear Mr Vickers

I refer to your query regarding the above.

UK legislation does not specify the choice of PPE, but requires that where PPE is used as a means of reducing risk of injury or ill-health, it must be suitable.  The actual choice is likely to be down to a specific risk assessment for the activity and environment in which the work activity is taking place.

For work which involves climbing, helmets to EN12492 provide advantages over helmets to EN397 for the reasons described in your enquiry. In addition, the chin strap ensures that the helmet is less likely to be dislodged when climbing or moving within the canopy. Climbing work inevitably involves work on the ground, and it would be impractical to require a climber to use a different helmet while working from the ground, and there do not appear to be any reasons why a helmet to EN12492 would not provide adequate protection for a ground worker supporting arboriculture work, especially where there is a risk of falling objects.

A helmet to EN397 is also likely to provide adequate protection for a ground worker and is the preferred choice in forestry. Such a helmet is unlikely to provide adequate protection during climbing as it may be dislodged and may not provide adequate protection to side impact.

However, a complicating factor is that not all manufacturers producing helmets to EN12492 approve them for use in groundwork, which is a matter which should be taken up with the manufacturer.

I have looked at our website regarding your comments, and it is likely that this will be amended to more accurately reflect the advice above.


Here's what I sent, just to give the context...

"As a trainer within the forestry and arboriculture industry, I am seeking advice on the EN397 and EN12492 standards as I come across conflicting information, recommendations and guidance regarding the use of 'arboriculture' helmets that meet EN12492 being used for ground work (where EN397 also applies).

A helmet that meets the EN12492 standard is built to withstand vertical forces twice that of the EN397 standard, as well as side impact loading (which is an optional test for EN397). Despite this, I have heard of several assessors, and indeed had several conversations with others who hold the view that an 'arboriculture' helmet cannot be used on the ground e.g. for forestry work.

The INDG317 merely states that for chainsaw work a "safety helmet to EN397" (p.8) should be worn, and as EN12492 would appear to exceed EN397 then one assumes that these helmets can be worn for chainsaw use on the ground.

However, the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/treework/safety-topics/chainppe.htm seems to state that these helmets are not suitable for work on the ground. FISA301: Using petrol drive chainsaws (what was AFAG301) also states helmets must meet EN397... which helmets meeting EN12492 would appear to do.

Can you please clarify the situation regarding the use of EN12492 helmets for use on the ground?

Many thanks, 
David Vickers."

So what are we to make of this? I think the key to it all is the comment about it being "down to a specific risk assessment for the activity and environment".

Underpinning knowledge for the medium fell assessment.

Having just completed the audio programme for underpinning knowledge for small fell, in this episode we'll take a look at the guidance given for the Level 3 Award for Felling & Processing Trees Over 380mm.

There is some overlap between the 'small' fell and the 'medium / large' fell assessments, and as before I've left gaps of a few seconds between the different criteria in the assessment. You can download the qualification guidance directly from NPTC.

Here it is...

Underpinning knowledge for the small fell assessment

If you are undertaking your Level 2 Award in Felling and Processing Trees Up To 380mm, then you'll know that as well as demonstrating that you can fell and deal with trees safely, you will have to answer some questions designed to check your underpinning knowledge.

The activities that you have to complete are all in the qualification guidance, which is available from the NPTC website - but over the years that I've been teaching the chainsaw units, I've had a number of course attendees tell me that they can't read, have dyslexia, or some other reason that they find taking in information by reading it, rather difficult.

In the past, I have resorted to making audio CD's and I've been told that they have been found quite useful. So now, I've created a completely free, and freely available, audio program that deals with the underpinning knowledge for the 'small fell' assessment.

I hope you find it useful!

Investing in the future...

As an independent, freelance trainer I'm looking for ways to invest in the future and make the most of new technology. Now, I'm not one for technology for technology's sake (my climbing system is all rope - there's no spiderjack, ascenders and what-not to clutter and confuse; although I will admit to a couple of micro-pulleys!).

Anyway, back to the point at hand... I've been intrigued by the battery powered chainsaws for quite a while, and I was demonstrating at the Bath & West Show a number of years back when I came across a guy using a small Makita battery saw. We had a chat and I watched him using it, but what struck me most was how slow the chain ran. Fast forward several years and battery technology has moved on leaps and bounds and battery saws may well be the future - they're not there yet for full-on, everyday forestry contractor use, but for many applications they are perfect.

So, why did I invest in this Husqvarna 536Li ground saw? How do I envisage using it?

Let's state the obvious, using a battery to power the saw means no petrol, no 2-stroke oil, no more mixing it up, no more smell of petrol, no more fumes. Charging the battery costs a matter of pence each time, and one battery is fully charged in 35 minutes.

That's all well and good, but the decision was not that easy from a training point of view; with no petrol engine to worry about, there's no air filter maintenance, no recoil starter to tension, no spark plug gap to check, no woodchip to clear out from the exhaust - all great things but the NPTC assessment still requires the learner / candidate to demonstrate maintenance of all these things.

From a training point of view, it's not a clear cut decision, however there are many advantages:
  • the chain stops instantly (there's no 'run-down' period as there is on a petrol chainsaw);
  • I don't use the saw continuously, as I generally use it for demonstrating cuts, and so a couple of batteries will get me through a day of training;
  • when a cut is finished and you release the throttle, the saw stops... it's completely silent and that means I can explain relevant points to learners without having to shout over the noise of a chainsaw on tick-over.
  • there's no risk of fuel spillage, which is great for 'eco-sites'.
I'll let you know how I get on with it in the fullness of time...

Now offering training dealing with windblown trees.

I'm pleased to say that I'm now able to offer training dealing with windblown trees - this is the City & Guilds NPTC Level 3 qualification 0021-02: Level 3 Award in Severing Uprooted or Windblown Trees Using a Chainsaw.

Use the contact form on the right of the page to find out more if you might be interested in obtaining this useful ticket.

Building the resources of the future.

So, this blog site has now been around for years helping people to get through their chainsaw assessments, and just generally providing high quality information to everyone - the site was started in a bid to ensure that anyone using a chainsaw had access to the right information to allow them to use it safely.

This site isn't going to be disappearing anytime soon, but I am starting the long slow process to building an updated site with much more information - if you want to see the sort of thing I mean then pop on over to http://resources.drivelinktraining.co.uk and take a look. You'll need to register, but the information is totally free - although I will warn you that at the moment it's still under construction so it may not seem terribly friendly to use! But there is a heap of information relating to health and safety, and legislation (there's also plenty behind-the-scenes too, but I'm not ready to release that just yet!).

There's so much to get stuck into, this is already shaping up to be a very busy year, and I've several exciting projects that should start to take shape over the next few months...

Nip on over to http://resources.drivelinktraining.co.uk and take a look.


Congratulations go to Richard, Alex, Charlie and David for successfully completing their City & Guilds NPTC chipper assessment last week, and also to apprentices Jack, Troy, Steve and Will for passing their C&G NPTC Level 2 Award in Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-cutting last week.

This week I'm focussed on climbing and aerial rescue, so let's hope our candidates this week have a great time... although the weather is looking a bit 'iffy'!

Confusing Industry Documentation

We seem to be in a ridiculous and confusing time when it comes to health and safety / industry best practice documentation - and I can't help thinking that the industry needs to get a grip!

Let's start with the AFAG guides - for years a central core to providing guidance on the best practice in the arboriculture and forestry industry. Let's take AFAG301: Using petrol drive chainsaws as an example... this was superceded in many respects by the Health & Safety Executive's INDG317: Chainsaws at work (a much broader and more in-depth document).

However, we now have FISA that appears to be in direct 'competition' with AFAG, and there seems to be some agreement between the two groups that FISA will deal with only forestry-related guidance, and AFAG will cover arboriculture, and arboriculture-and-forestry-related information. A quick look at the FISA guides as they stand at the moment though shows that AFAG301 is now FISA301, and has the same information but is now coloured orange rather than green.

But the INDG317 document is also still valid.

Add in to this mix, the City and Guilds NPTC qualification guidance documents that still only mention AFAG guides - even though the HSE website states clearly that many of the AFAG guides "have been withdrawn".

It gets better though, as looking at the FISA301 guide - are you keeping up? This is the latest incarnation of the AFAG301 (which has been withdrawn), it clearly states that further reading should include INDG294: Managing Health & Safety in Forestry - only the HSE website states "the publication you are looking for has been withdrawn"!

So, we seem to have a series of interlinked documents that have been superceded, with the new versions linking back to withdrawn copies of old guidance notes... and qualification guidance referring to potentially the wrong information. Is it any wonder that health and safety in the industry can be somewhat confusing at times?

The All New Chipper Course... Has it gone legislation mad?

Running through the new Level 2 Award in Safe Use of Manually Fed Woodchippers course today (why do all the new qualifications have to have such long titles?), it struck just how much has changed from the 'old' chippers certificate. The new one is much better written, more logical and covers all the salient points - but legislation... getting the candidate to remember information on five different regulations on a one day short course is a bit much!

Or is it? We all know it's important to maintain health and safety standards - we work in a dangerous industry after all, and stupid 'mistakes' are still being made such as this example where a worker lost an arm in a chipper, and this example of an unsupervised and untrained teenager operating a chipper who lost his toes after pushing the brash into it. These aren't accidents from decades ago either... how is it there is still such ignorance about the law surrounding this equipment?

All of the new Level 2 Awards have a common thread through them - risk assessment, emergency planning, and legislation - and I think that's a good thing, but why does the Level 2 Woodchippers talk about the following NINE regulations...
  • Management of Health & Safety At Work Act '99
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations '98
  • Control of Vibration at Work Regulations '05
  • Personal Protective Equipment Regulations '92
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations '92
  • Noise at Work Regulations '89
  • "Countryside and Wildlife Act '81" (shouldn't that be the Wildlife and Countryside Act anyway?
...when the Level 2 chainsaw maintenance and crosscutting only has:
  • Health & Safety at Work Act
  • AFAG guides (no mention of INDG317: Chainsaws At Work or the FISA guides which have taken over from some of the formally relevant AFAG guides)
No mention of RIDDOR there... and no mention of the PPE regulations either... or the manual handling regs, control of vibration, noise at work, or COSHH for that matter! All of which apply equally to using chainsaws as much as using the chipper.

Perhaps City & Guilds NPTC should consider separating out the legislative stuff and running it as a distinct assessment? Then enforcing refresher training on this.

What do you think?


Just wanted to say "well done" to Paul, Alex, Ken and Colin for successfully completing their Level 2 Award in Felling and Processing Trees Over 380mm (the old 'CS32') assessments, and also to Larbi, Stuart and Ieuan for passing their Level 2 Award in Chainsaw Maintenance and Crosscutting ('CS30' as was).

Congratulations all round and I look forward to seeing some of you back for further courses as I know Alex is back for chipper training, and as soon as I can arrange it both Alex and Paul will be undertaking the new dealing with windblown trees course as they passed their medium / large fell.

All the best,