All trees can be dangerous if they fall on people, property or over a highway. It is necessary for the owner therefore to look at the risk associated with their tree ie the chance that if it fell it would cause damage? Where there is a risk of harm occurring by a tree it must be inspected at appropriate intervals to ensure, as far as possible, that it contains no apparent source of danger. Where the tree owner does not possess sufficient knowledge, advice should be taken from a qualified arborist.
The frequency of inspections will depend on;
- The age, species and condition of the tree.
- The number and frequency of people and vehicles passing by.
- Whether, in particular, there are children likely to be put at risk.
- The use and construction of buildings that could be affected.
- The risk of any harm being caused.
Owners who for whatever reason are unable to take action promptly should advise anyone known to be at risk so that they can themselves take any necessary action.
NB: It is important to keep records of inspections and work carried out for use in case of any subsequent disputes.
Negligence. If the owner of a tree fails to take any necessary action, resulting in harm to people, animals or property on his or neighbouring land, and if that harm was foreseeable, then that is likely to be categorised as negligence and those affected would be entitled to sue for damages (financial compensation). If trees or branches fall and cause harm the owners will be liable if they caused the problem by;
Their action such as incompetent pruning or destabilising a tree by root severance.
By their inaction ie failure to inspect on a reasonably regular basis, or by omitting to remedy a problem that has been drawn to their attention.
It is especially important for trees close to highways and other high-risk areas and ensure that regular inspections are undertaken – failure to do this could render the owner liable to be sued. This is unlikely if harm is caused by a tree or branch falling as a result of a disease or weakness which would not have been visible on a proper examination or due to exceptionally severe weather.
It is therefore important to use a properly qualified arborist to carry out any tree works and while works are being carried out to ask them to inspect the tree and recommend any further work that may be required.
Health and safety regulations for those working on trees and for other persons in the vicinity of the work are extremely extensive. Working on old trees can be extremely dangerous. When choosing your tree surgeon you should ensure that the operators are Arb Approved Contractors, eg from the Arboricultural Associations Approved Contractors list who are rigorously inspected to ensure they perform to the correct safety standards and equipment is regularly inspected and maintained for purpose, they are properly certificated and insured for working with a chainsaw at height.
IMPORTANT: TO AVOID LIABILITY – DO NOT LET VOLUNTEERS OR UNQUALIFIED PERSONS USE MACHINERY OR CARRY OUT WORKS ESPECIALLY ON OLD TREES. ALSO ENSURE YOUR CONTRACTOR IS QUALIFIED TO WORK ON THE SIZE OF TREE YOU HAVE AND THAT THEY HAVE THE CORRECT INSURANCE TO WORK AT HEIGHT.
For more information visit: https://www.trees.org.uk/Trees.org.uk/media/Trees-org.uk/Documents/GuideToTreesAndTheLaw-Web.pdf