" Common Sense Risk Management of Trees" is guidance issued by the National Tree Safety Group. This guidance proposes that tree owners should take a balanced and proportionate appraoch to tree safety management.
HEALTH & SAFETY LEGISLATION
The requirement under health and safety legislation is to have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, and to apply measures that are reasonable and practicable. Courts will always ask whether a tree owner has acted as "a reasonable and prudent landowner". Because trees present a very low risk to people, owners and managers should be able to make planning and management decisions by considering how trees fit into a particular local context and avoid unnecessary intervention, survey and cost. This approach will help them ensure that any management is proportionate and strikes an appropriate balance between the real risks and benefits. Although a landowner has responsibilities for the health and safety of those on or near the land, he/she is not expected to guarantee that the tree is safe. It should be noted that the HSE has stated that "for trees in a frequently visited zone, a system of periodic proactive checks is appropriate".
KEY STEPS IN TREE SAFETY MANAGEMENT
A reasonable and ablanced approach forms the basis of a tree safety strategy for sensible tree safety management. By a "strategy", we mean a plan that guides management decisions and practice, in a reasonable and cost-effective way, typically covering three essential aspects:
- Zoning: appreciating tree stock in relation to people or property
- Tree Inspection: assessing obvious tree defects
- Managing risk at an acceptable level: identifying, prioritising and undertaking safety work according to level of risk.
Zoning - it is suggested that two zones are sufficient - high and low use are usually sufficient.
High use zones are used by many people every day on where people or property may be affected.
Low use zones are used infrequently and may only require irregular inspection if at all.
There are three types of inspections:
- Informal observations - essentially these are the day-to-day observations of trees made by owners and others in the course of their daily lives and work. People with good local knowledge and familarity with local trees who are NOT tree specialists can do this observation.
- Formal inspections - this is when a specific visit to the tree is made with the sole purpose of performing an inspection that is not incidental to other activities. These can be undertaken by people who do not necessarily have specific tree-related qualifications but do have a general knowledge of trees and the ability to recognise normal and abnormal appearance and growth for the locality. This includes an ability to recognise obviously visible signs of serious ill health or significant structural problems. The person also needs the ability to assess approximate tree height and falling distance from the tree to the area of use as well as when to request a detailed inspection. Frequency of these inspections should be based on the zoning of the site.
- Detailed inspections