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Homeowner | Tree Risk-Benefit Management Strategy (it's free!)

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Here’s your free Tree Risk-Benefit Management Strategy for Homeowners

 

WWW.VALIDTREERISK.COM

An elegantly simple solution to a complex problem - all in the palm of your hand!

 

We’ve just updated VALID's strategies (v3.0). As a not-for-profit, part of our quest is to democratise tree risk-benefit assessment and management, and encourage citizen science through public participation. We’ve waived copyright on these publications and they’re released under a creative commons license. So, you're welcome to use and share them.

 

Download the strategy and use a pdf editor to alter the details on the cover and header.  If you want to change the picture, no problem. You can now use it to add value to your service by giving your clients a copy.

VALID - TRB Management Strategy - Homeowner v3.0_Page_1.jpg

VALID - TRB Management Strategy - Homeowner v3.0_Page_2.jpg

VALID - TRB Management Strategy - Homeowner v3.0_Page_3.jpg

VALID - TRB Management Strategy - Homeowner v3.0_Page_4.jpg

Edited by Acer ventura
Forgot to add that's it's free in the subject header
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Nice gesture but maybe consider revising the not clearing basal growth unless there is an obvious risk feature point, and having seen a fair few 'citizen science' tree surveys I'm not convinced tree risk assessment is the right topic for engagement, or they are something I'd encourage without major caveats. 

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Hi Andrew

 

The removing basal growth etc thing in the Plan.  It was given a lot of thought and analysis, but it can’t be justified in terms of how extremely low the overall risk is, and the absence of an obvious tree risk feature to trigger a closer look. Homeowners might well have an easier task of doing this than Landowners, or Government Agencies, but to expect them to do it would put a higher duty of care on them than other duty holders.

 

Homeowners aren’t carrying out tree surveys though.  They’re just keeping an eye out on their own trees for obvious tree risk features, and then they ring you if they’re concerned.  It’d be the Arborist who carries out a Detailed Assessment.  That’s all it says.  The Policy is there to provide the foundations which back up that approach.
 

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It was just a suggestion, to me it seems contradictory to say there is an absence of a tree risk feature trigger when you can't see the stem or buttresses, ground level in relation to the stem, root plate lift etc etc because of dense under growth or  ivy/epicormics, how do you go about establishing there is no risk feature  or trigger other than getting in there? I know I have instructed plenty of clearance on trees with targets over the years for inspection, and been surprised/horrified/reassured by what became visible.

 

I understand what you're saying about homeowners keeping an eye out, but that's not really citizen 'science' is it, it's just encouraging engagement, unless you are collating data inquiries vs failure stats or something? good on you if so. Why not promote just a simple, no acronyms needed homeowners VTA guide? Like those helpful photos and captions on the last page.

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I appreciate your suggestion and discussion.  It's really useful to debate this kind of thing.

 

Perhaps this explains it better.

 

The risk feature needs to be ‘obvious’ to warrant taking a closer look.

 

Not removing other vegetation without an obvious tree risk feature (like dieback) has the same logic to it as to why you don’t climb every tree to look at the top of a branch to establish there’s no tree risk feature up there.  You wouldn’t recommend a climbing inspection of a tree unless there was some ‘obvious’ feature to warrant doing it.  Similarly, you don’t carry out a root excavation to establish there are no tree risk features in the roots either, unless there’s a trigger.  You’re not looking for hidden features, otherwise, where do you stop.  Something hidden by undergrowth, on the upper side of a branch, or beneath ground isn’t ‘obvious’ unless there’s a trigger pointing you to it.

 

Actually, the plan is to eventually capture stats on this with an App.  However, the key thing about this short strategy is it’s the Homeowner managing tree risk in a reasonable, proportionate, and reasonably practicable way.  It’s not necessary for them to VTA a tree, and that in itself opens up separate can of worms.  They’re not ‘actively’ looking for obvious tree risk features.  They ‘can’t help but notice them’.  It’s called Passive Assessment, as opposed to Active Assessment, and these levels of assessment are explained further in the strategies for Government Agencies and Landowners.  In short, if you’re paid to look at a tree, that’s Active Assessment.  If you’re driving home on a Friday evening, with a case of cold beer, and pass one of your clients’ trees that’s so fecked you momentarily take your eyes off the road, that’s Passive Assessment.

 

That last Obvious Tree Risk Features Guide page can be used by itself, and there’s a link to download a standalone version on the website.  However, if you’re a Homeowner, and your tree fails and kills, injures, someone or damages their property and there's a legal claim made against you, then it’s the Policy and Plan (mainly the Policy) that are the pillars of your defence.


 

Edited by Acer ventura

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I think we can agree to disagree on survey approaches and what is or isn't defend-able, I don't think there is any parallel between the instruction of an aerial inspection or root investigation and removing ivy for example.

Creating access and visibility for inspection where there are significant targets seems totally logical to me, and yes I would strongly recommend looking for hidden features at the base as it is easy and low cost to do, and not at all comparable to an aerial inspection instruction, and with ivy severance you also allow a more thorough view up into the canopy for the next survey as the ivy dies off, the point at which you stop looking for hidden features also seems obvious, don't get in your harness or get the air spade out, but do investigate dense vegetation and ivy if there is a significant target.

 

I understand you are attempting to re-label/brand tree inspection and assessment, I asked what sort of science you are encouraging and working on as that would be of interest?

And yes I understand what a tree safety policy is trying to achieve,  hence my original point, I certainly wouldn't recommend any policy that had as a pillar the 'don't look under vegetation unless there is an obvious risk feature approach', you are obviously happy to do so, and anyone else reading can hopefully see and appreciate the two different approaches, especially if just starting out in survey work. 

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Sorry, for the delay in replying.  I didn’t get an alert for your post.

 

Here’s some additional thoughts.

 

Not to spend time, money, and take away habitat benefits by removing climbing plants, undergrowth, basal growth, or cutting hedgerows unless there’s an obvious tree risk feature is a risk-benefit management decision.  Not an assessment decision.  It’s about the duty holder managing the primary risk, which is the risk from tree failure.  We know this is an extremely low risk.  So extremely low, almost everything we do each day carries a higher risk than being hit by a tree.  To remove vegetation without an obvious tree risk feature to trigger it is disproportionate to the likely overall risk reduction.  This becomes particularly important when it scales up to a Landowner or Government Agency.  At the moment I’m doing some work with the Tasmanian Government on managing tree risk on their main roads.  The prospects of removing any vegetation at the base of trees within falling distance of their main roads are mind-boggling.

 

Often, the surveying/inspection decision to remove this stuff by an Arborist is about them managing the secondary risk, which are the chances of negligence claim being made against them, irrespective of the actual primary risk.  That section you’re not keen on is something that’s not an assessor’s decision.  They’re making their risk assessment within those limitations set in the Homeowner’s strategy.  Just as you’ll be saying a tree has an Acceptable risk from branch failure without climbing the tree, you’re extending this to say the tree has Acceptable level of risk of failure based on what you can see.

 

Out of interest, do you specify removing all Ivy, rhododendron, bramble, hedgerows, laurel, shrubs, epicormics, etc as a matter of course to look closer, no matter the condition of the tree?  You say easy and low cost.  What’s your boundary between easy and hard, and low cost v high cost, and how have you worked out that your boundary is the right side of disproportionate?  For one tree in a garden it might be easy to remove, but what about 50?  Or if the owner likes the ivy.  Or it’s their shrubs that are screening their garden.  I don’t have a problem with an assessor saying to the duty holder, “You might want to consider severing that ivy at the base”, but it’s the duty holder’s choice.

 

You’re right about the language, though I’m not sure it’s rebranding.  It’s being really clear about what is risk assessment and what is risk management .  It’s also not about a ‘survey’ or ‘inspection’.  You may have noticed, I don’t use words like ‘survey’ or ‘inspection’.  These words are loaded with expectations driven by qualification and training.  It’s probably a separate thread to chat about what we’re doing when we ‘inspect trees’.  For example, as I understand it during the 3 day PTI course you don’t assess the risk, which I find odd.  Why inspect a tree in so much detail and not have a risk output?  I think one of the reasons why some Arborists feel uncomfortable not removing vegetation is because that’s what’s been told in the past.  That you have to inspect the lower 2 m of a tree in detail to try and find hidden defects, but the rest, not so much.

 

 ‘tree safety policy’
Following on from above, I’m not being a pendant here.  The wording is really important.  The ‘safety’ word isn’t used in any of the strategies.  You can’t make trees safe.  Not least because most people think safe means a complete absence of risk.
 

Edited by Acer ventura

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I forgot to mention that I screwed up the pdf compilation when first I posted this.  When combining the files I imported the wrong Plan, which had some grammatical errors and manglish in it.  This is fixed now and it can be downloaded here.

 

TINYURL.COM

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I would say on any of my surveys, if base of trunk is not visible / accessible, it goes down as a Fault, either for crews to clear or more extensive survey date to be set- dependent on Target or Management approach. K

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In response to your additional thoughts you mention scaling up to government survey level, that seems an odd justification for your homeowners policy content surely? Totally different scenarios, just because you may not remove vegetation on large numbers of roadside trees in Tasmania doesn't mean it's sensible to encourage homeowners not to remove ivy on their one roadside tree in a domestic setting in the UK, hence my original suggestion that you revise that (I'd remove it), apologies if that hasn't gone down well, but I feel it's important to at least register some concern with your document.

 

You state "To remove vegetation without an obvious tree risk feature to trigger it is disproportionate to the likely overall risk reduction"

I'd add that this is in your view, and although I asked what science you have been doing or encouraging, there doesn't seem to be anything new you are offering to show that this is disproportionate ? I'd suggest you are trying to quantify in terms of risk the un-quantifiable, as unless a very bored arborist somewhere does some stats on failures due to hidden features that hadn't been inspected, we are left with what to me seems a reasonable approach, not your proposed blanket statement that unless there is an obvious risk feature seen you go no further with veg removal. For example, your proposed approach would miss all the big healthy crown condition ivy clad willow and poplar, that upon ivy removal have been found to be long over due a red dot and felling, we all know they exist, surely part of job is to understand that and find them on a survey before they fail onto people or property?

 

You mention boundaries for decision making on vegetation removal, perhaps you are realising that it isn't something that needs to be laid out in a home owners policy as one way or the other?

Saying it is the duty holders choice seems a bit of a cop out, I think most of us in this area of work will be used to a client expecting us to provide a view and advice on if veg clearance is needed, not pass the buck back to them. I think tree inspection work is such an experience critical field, with so many variables that trying to put a risk output on what might or not might not be under vegetation isn't productive, and doesn't need a set of traffic lights to help, hopefully the PTI stays in the current format to reflect this. If experience of species, wind loading, water logging, soil type, snow loading, previous failures, past land use etc etc, leads me to think I need veg removal I recommend it, if a serious risk feature is found then it is, if it isn't it isn't, that's the nature of massively variable organisms and growing positions.

 

Semantics on safety or otherwise aren't of huge interest to me, a tree safety improvement policy might be better wording, but more time looking under ivy  and vegetation is probably time better spent.... But don't worry I'm sure arbtalkers are aware you can't make trees safe.

 

Have you been on the PTI?  when I did it you were certainly expected to look above 2m, or are you describing other previous training you've had that focused on below 2m assessment? that restricted type of VTA is not something I've ever heard of.

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