Countless businesses and landowners will be assessing the damage caused Storms Ciara and Dennis over the last two weekends. Each storm has hammered across the UK bringing gale force winds and torrential rainfall which has led to wide scale disruption and flooding. An increasing frequency and severity of flooding from a range of sources represents the most significant climate change risk to UK infrastructure (www.theccc.org.uk). This disruption has caused damage to hundreds of properties, led to the cancellation of rail, road, sea and public transport services, and also knocked out power to homes and businesses.
According to the Health & Safety Executive, each year between 5 and 6 people in the UK are killed when trees or branches fall on them (www.hse.gov.uk). Whilst the risk of being struck and killed by a tree or branch falling may have a low probability, where members of the public, infrastructure or buildings are in close proximity (i.e. in the falling distance of a tree), the element of risk posed by a falling tree, is increased. This is referred to as the target area, and this can be higher or lower depending on the situation surrounding a tree (www.treeterms.co.uk).
Company Directors, land owners and farmers have a duty of care to have systems in place to control risks from trees to employees, contractors and members of the public. Situations such as parks and gardens, golf courses, leisure and holiday parks and tree-lined roads are examples that would benefit from having an Arboricultural Management Plan in place.
Consequently, it is wise to consider that should an incident occur on your property which leads to HSE inspectors examining your standards of tree management, or if they identify a matter of evident concern during a visit, you may be held liable if you are unable to provide evidence that you have considered the condition and health of your tree stock.
Taking a proactive stance towards arboricultural risk management not only also ensures trees remain in good health, it also helps to identify and isolate any which may pose a risk. It can also lessen the cost of annual tree maintenance, giving you a plan to undertake tree work over several years where the risks are low. It is worth noting as well that poorly completed, or excessive tree maintenance can lead to tree failures so always ensure contractors complete work in accordance with BS 3998:2010 Tree Work – Recommendations.
To read the HSE guidelines for the management of risk from falling trees or branches, please click on the link.