Agora Walk

The scents of the forest and fresh wood, the sound of a chain saw – a tree is about to topple. In the Agora open-air space at the heart of the fairgrounds, a diverse programme is being presented to the visitors of the World Congress 2014.

agora3One more quick glance towards the treetop, then the tree trunk falls – and lands with perfect precision on the balloon, making it go “pop”. Werner, the forester in orange protective clothing, has done his work perfectly. At the same time he provided a competent commentary to the onlookers on how to go about felling a tree step by step: firstly, notch the tree trunk with a saw, then hammer a wedge into it, check the treetop; finally, move the prescribed distance away from the tree trunk. The forester gives the onlookers a safety message to take away with them: “The most important thing is for the tree to fall where it is supposed to fall, and at the right moment. Surely and safely: after all, your own life is at risk here.”

agora4The competition is just nearby in the form of machines to touch and see. You can climb up into the driver’s cabin of the harvester and get an idea of what it’s like to use a joystick to operate forestry harvesting machines. Very impressive. But with some room for improvement: a proposal by the standardization body Kommission Arbeitsschutz und Normung (KAN) and others for inclusion in the product standards is to install non-slip steps up to the driver’s cabin. The experts from the companies and the health and safety organizations at the booth provide detailed additional information.

This is where I come across a delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They too were watching the tree-felling event; now they are moving on to get information about the latest developments in protective clothing. Forestry is an important topic in their country as Congo is one of the countries with the highest forest coverage worldwide, they tell me proudly.

agora2“Careful! We are about to turn upside down,” I hear someone shouting nearby. I go to check out what’s going on: two Congress visitors have taken a seat in the driver’s cabin of a truck and, believe it or not: they are suddenly upside down as the driver’s cabin does a 360-degree rotation around its own axis. The cuddly toys fly around the cabin – still quite harmless compared to a real-life scenario where mobile phones, drinks or papers are often taken into the cabin without being secured. After their experience, the two visitors said: “This really opened our eyes to how important it is to use a safety belt and make sure everything in the driver’s cabin is where it should be.”

You can also experience here how it feels when a truck at the end of a traffic jam bumps into another one. The simulator tells us: “Your crash speed was 8.92 km/h. Your crash weight was 256.76 kg.” That’s more than three times the weight of the test person. If you’ve ever experienced this up close, you will say forever after “never again without a safety belt”.

agoraThis slogan comes from the German Road Safety Council (DVR), one of the main exhibitors at the Agora area of the World Congress. Another one is the Social Insurance Fund for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture (SVLFG), which is providing attractions on the topic of forest work. And there’s plenty more to be discovered at Agora – for example you can get tips on sitting posture in the driver’s cabin, test run an office treadmill, take a walk on a slackline or have your health checked. You can have your hearing and sight tested, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels measured and even have a back analysis done or get a massage. The “Health Street” is attracting the interest of many of the international visitors, and at the end of it everyone can move on next door and take a break in the “World Café” – before returning to the next talks and symposia for a safe and healthy working world.

Text: Bettina Bräuniger