EMPLOYEE STORIES – SHANNON VERSLUIS
Forget the swings and slides, if there was a big tree in the playground, likelihood was you’d find a young Shannon Versluis scaling it.
Now 26, Shannon’s love of heights and a challenge has faded little. It’s realised each day in his role as a climber with Active Tree Services in a job he clearly enjoys.
Shannon joined Active over five years ago. At the time he was working for another private tree company but the advertised opportunity to gain more experience with a larger team proved too good to pass up. He started out in reactive works on the Ringwood council contract, progressed to clearing around power lines, and soon decided to pursue his passion for climbing.
Now he works as a lead crew member in the rural areas around Victoria’s northern suburbs on the AusNet South Morang Contract. It involves climbing the hard to access trees and clearing near power lines and transmission towers of up to 220,000 volts. An average day sees him start work a bit before 7am as part of a two-man crew.
It’s a hazardous role where the key is working together, Shannon notes.
“You’ve got to have a good partnership where you watch each other’s back. You’ve got to be on your game.”
This particularly applies to storm work, he continues, when the hours can be long, often at night and the obstacles are unexpected.
“Everything becomes harder. You need to look at every decision a couple of times. Having a good team helps and there are lots of great groups that I work with. You’ve got to take your time, double check and have good, clear communication.”
This commitment to safety has been an increasing factor throughout Shannon’s time in the job.
“Some storms will see the guys working long shifts. You have to pull the pin due to fatigue, provide fresh crews and be aware the weather can be hard on the teams.”
But he also relishes the opportunities presented by his job each day.
“I love climbing. I love heights and I love the challenge of going that extra mile to get the job done. You also see fabulous, new, remote places with an excellent view of the countryside.”
One particularly enjoyable opportunity was when Shannon travelled to South Australia.
“I got to see some new areas and enjoyed the different places.”
Also memorable was a tree clearing job for the construction of new power lines.
“There was this one day where we were going through dropping trees of up to 100ft, felling tree after tree for a kilometre. To look back and see this path of huge trees carved away, the look of it was quite crazy. It was a hugely dramatic change.”
As for dramatic changes of his own, Shannon notes it’s unlikely to involve a career shift.
“I’d like to stay with Active, maybe take on a training role later in the life,” he says.
He’d also consider getting into competitive climbing, meaning in the future you’ll still find Shannon Versluis scaling the biggest tree in the “playground”.