Employee Stories

Employee Stories – Shaun Hitchcock

EMPLOYEE STORIES – SHAUN HITCHCOCK

Far beyond the city limits of Sydney, scoper and notifier Shaun Hitchcock is “filling in the dots”, accessing the latest technology to mark where trees need trimming and vegetation is to be cleared beneath power lines.
It’s a role he first embraced when he joined Active Tree Services in 2002, but along the way there have been some deviations, highways and byways on a long and winding route to a brave new world of vegetation management.
Shaun says much has changed in 15 years. Long gone are the days when scopers and notifiers headed bush on a Yamaha XT 225 motorcycle, working off paper maps and travelling from pole to pole, visually assessing potential tree and vegetation hazards beneath.
These days it’s all done by computer and GPS from the relative comfort of a Suzuki Jimni 4WD. Shaun is allocated spatial maps and his role is to note proposed works with colour-coded dots. The dots signify what type of crew and equipment will be required, like whether a climber or ground line crew should be brought in to trim vegetation.
“It’s a bit like answering 20 questions, three times a day,” he notes.
His region spans from Katoomba to Narellan and out west to Bowenfels, but he explains over his years he’s worked in every Endeavour Energy region except Nowra – from Berry to Glenorie, Mt Tomah to Wisemans Ferry. And he’s clocked up a few k’s along the way. Since he resumed his role as a scoper six years ago he’s worn out three Jimni’s, with the latest accumulating 130,000kms in the past two years.
It’s a far cry from his previous career as a boilermaker and much safer than it was in years gone by. About 18 months after starting with Active, Shaun was “cleaned up by a car” while riding his motorcycle. The accident resulted in a fractured spine which saw Shaun make a swift recovery but unable to take the ongoing bump and grind of assessing by bike.
He worked as a ground line trimmer and leading hand until Jimnis became the preferred mode of transport for notifying and he was offered the opportunity to hit the trail again about six years ago. When that option arose, Shaun seized the opportunity to get back into the role he loves.
His day starts around 7am, rallying with the crew and then he’s off on his own to assess what needs cutting, where.

Shaun Hitchcock

“I like being outdoors. I can plan my own day and can pick where I start and stop. It’s all fun, with beautiful scenery. One minute you’re in the hills and a couple of minutes later you’re cutting through a rainforest.”

But he’s also acutely aware of the importance of his job. Part of his role includes pre-bushfire season assessments. He goes on to explain first a helicopter flies over the lines, using lidar to measure the distance between power lines and vegetation with an accuracy of 100mm. With that information at hand, Shaun follows behind to conduct visual inspections and work out what equipment will be required.
“If you miss something, it could cause a bushfire. If you send in the wrong crew it could be a waste of time. The most important thing is getting it right and not missing anything.”
Along with the technology, Shaun says safety has increased dramatically in the industry over the past 15 years – and he notes that’s a “good” thing.
“The most dangerous tool is a chainsaw, the most dangerous environment is electrical and the most dangerous situation is working at height. We cover it all and I wouldn’t want to work for any other company.”