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Tree Inspections – Preventing the Preventable

In-house tree inspector Josh Diplock gives us the lowdown on tree MOT’s and why they’re not just important, they’re essential…

Sometimes land & forest management involves getting up close & personal to survey individual trees to inform management strategies, to protect against spread of disease, to mitigate hazards & ensure tree safety.


What is a tree survey?

A tree survey is a study of a single tree by a trained, experienced, qualified inspector with an in-depth knowledge of arboricultural science.  The tree is inspected in terms of it’s health, it’s structure, it’s surroundings and any potential hazards.

The result is a written report detailing any appropriate remedial works and control measures.


When to do tree surveys?

A tree survey can be done at any time of year really but it’s advisable, where required, to be done during spring / summer period. This is so any remedial arboricultural work can be planned in time for the autumn before vulnerable trees are subject to challenging weather conditions.

an inspection would highlight the vulnerability of these young windblown conifers a dead tree left as woodland habitat for invertebrates and plantlife needs regular inspection a dead tree still standing would be a prime candidate for regular tree inspection for safety purposes


Why inspecting trees is so important

There are many reasons for having trees surveyed but SAFETY comes out as the top priority. Then comes tree health and tree retainment (helping trees with problems stay alive) although the health and the safety of trees are of course inextricably linked.


The Law

As a land owner or forest manager you’ll probably already know that anyone that owns or looks after land that contains trees has a legal duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and 1984 to ensure that no object or item on their land poses a danger or does damage to visitors, neighbours or members of the public.

This is serious stuff.

We as foresters working on behalf of private land owners take that responsibility as such.

Furthermore anyone that owns commercial premises has a further obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to undertake regular tree surveys so that trees do not cause foreseeable harm or damage.


“It is the duty of the land owner or land manager to prevent the preventable.”


Therefore, in the case of a dangerous tree which fails and damages someone or something and is seen to have been be avoidable through a survey, the fault would lie with the tree owner. The idea of preventing the preventable is very clear and straightforward.

Tree inspections are a discipline that should not be underestimated or disregarded, and on the contrary we have a responsibility to be act.


Land Owner Liability

Although it’s not something we want to dwell on we must maintain a vigilance. It’s a hard thing to talk about but we have to be aware that land owners have liability under the law and that claims may be brought where it’s shown that an owner was negligent, for example, if the tree was obviously dangerous, and they failed to act to prevent an incident occurring.

Statute law does not require the tree owner to maintain completely ‘safe ‘trees as it’s understood that it’s not feasibly possible or practical to inspect every tree on a day to day basis. What the law requires is that the owner and land mangers take “reasonable care” to maintain their trees as other parts of their property.


Tree inspections as part of responsible forest management

Trees safety is not the only reason to have trees inspected. They also provide insights for management strategies and identify diseased and damaged trees so work can be done to retain them. There is a wealth of proven reasons on how trees benefit us and the environment. More and more people are understanding the trees are essential to a stable healthy climate, they provide real benefits, reducing pollution, sequestering carbon, providing a supply of food, preventing flooding, health benefits to humans, proving habitats for wildlife and increasing property value.


If you have trees on your land it is sensible to have them regularly surveyed by a competent arboriculturist.

Remember, the aim is safety…  prevent the preventable so  any hazardous trees should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Thanks for reading,



Josh is our in-house tree inspector. If you’d like to talk to him about a visit get in touch with him here

The Occupiers’ Libaility Act 1957

As usual, Wikipedia has a reference page for us

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

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