Professional tree safety surveys

How do we know if a tree is safe?

In law, wooded estates and people with trees on their property owe a ‘duty of care’ to their ‘neighbours’, or to people who may be affected by some potential accident or aspect of tree failure. Tree owners are therefore obliged to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions, reasonably foreseen, that could result in harm to persons or property.

That may sound alarming, especially when we consider we are becoming an increasingly litigious society. But there are millions of trees by roadsides and on property where there is public access, yet it is rare to hear about accidents, or owners being held liable for negligence. The chances of being hit by a falling tree or branch are in fact exceedingly small.

This does not mean that accidents do not happen, but fortunately an element of common sense exists in relation to tree safety. The one big over-riding principle is that trees are an enormously important part of our landscape, culture and society. Most people do not want to see trees cut down, or have radical surgery without good reason. And we have come to accept that so long as reasonable precautions are taken, if an accident does occur it might not be anyone's fault.

With this in mind, regular tree safety surveys can be undertaken in areas of frequent use or high value property. Records of inspections will show that proper consideration and methodology has been given.

Where defective trees are suspected, a systematic method of diagnosis should be used to locate the defects, and to test for sound wood. It is often the case that the tree adapts to defects by laying down new wood around weak areas. This helps it regain a structure of ‘uniform stress’, so that to some extent trees are self-correcting. So not only might trees be considered safe on inspection, but where work is considered, there may be less to do than often supposed and alternatives may exist.

Clive Ellis has achieved a Lantra certificate of training and assessment for Professional Tree Inspection. Contact Clive for tree safety surveys across East Anglia.