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Positive Action on Tree Safety……?

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Discussion Document in Response to the Draft Guidance Document and Position Statement Issued by the National Tree Safety Group.

 

BRINGING COMMON SENSE TO TREE MANAGEMENT

 

Follow the links below for the relevant documents, which are available for download.

 

There is now limited time to respond with a closing date of 21st June 2010.

 

You are encouraged to read the documents before commenting on the points raised below.

 

Copy these links into your browser.....

 

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/POSITIONSTATEMENT.pdf/$FILE/POSITIONSTATEMENT.pdf

 

 

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/NTSGDraftGuidanceDoc.pdf/$FILE/NTSGDraftGuidanceDoc.pdf

 

 

The Draft Guidance Document and Position Statement issued by the National Tree Safety Group (NTGS) have highlighted a number of important points that should be considered by the industry as a whole.

 

Your response could have a major impact on future work.

 

There are points covered within the report that may have a significant impact on the legal requirements of land owners to have trees inspected, but more importantly they are highly likely to have a significant influence on methodologies for inspection and working practices of those in the industry.

 

Below are a number of points raised by the documents that have sufficient potential impact that they should be discussed openly and without prejudice.

 

1. The Research by the Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management (DARM) on behalf of NTSG has highlighted that the actual risk of death from a falling tree is around 1 in 10,000,000. This of course does not take into account other forms of damage and disruption caused by tree failures, but given the significantly low risk it is stated that the works carried out to trees to reduce risk in the UK is disproportionate to the risk posed.

 

Q: The question here is …should the Draft Document make statements as to how risk can be reduced rather than broadly using the term “essential works”?

 

The Draft Document implies this by stating........ “The term ‘defect’ can be misleading, as the significance of structural deformities in trees (variations from a perceived norm) can be extremely variable. Indeed, deformities can be a response to internal hollowing or decay, compensating for loss of wood strength and providing mechanical advantage, allowing the tree to adapt to wind and gravitational forces. With inadequate understanding, so-called defects may be erroneously confused with hazards and, furthermore, hazards with risk – so unless the risk of harm arising from a hazard is properly taken account of, management can be seriously misinformed, potentially leading to costly tree intervention (pruning).”

 

Q: Does the term essential works require further definition? Does this:

 

a. Suggest that the current methodologies for assessing trees and proposing work for risk reduction are flawed?

 

b. Indicate a miss-application of available methodologies and technologies?

 

c. Highlight a disparity between what is practiced and what is necessary stimulated and created by a perception of a disproportionate legal responsibility?

 

 

2. The NTGS Draft Document States “Although it may be important for human safety, it would be a fallacy to believe that any intervention is necessarily carried out for the benefit of the tree. Trees have their own inbuilt mechanisms for dealing with damage and decline. If trees were left to their own devices and allowed to go through their natural life cycle free from human intervention, tree failure of any nature would be irrelevant, being part of complex natural processes, integral to the way trees have evolved.”

 

Q: Does work carried out to trees in the UK adhere to this philosophy or professional ethic?

 

Q; And at what point in risk can trees be left to their own devices?

 

 

 

3. The NTGS Draft Document States “Trees may offer important health benefits; yet removing trees seldom takes account of the risks to human health and well-being.” For example “Doubling the tree canopy cover in the West Midlands alone could prevent around 140 premature deaths per year”

 

Q; Should equal status be given to the health, environmental and other benefits of trees against the risk of failure?

 

Q: And should all assessments consider the environment and other issues with the same diligence/effort required of for the completion of risk assessments?

 

 

 

4. The Draft Document advocates a system of inspection and works to reduce risk, pointing out the need for “essential works” but does not put forward a system to balance this risk with the benefits from trees.

 

Q: Does this potentially contradict points 1-3 raised above and what is considered essential works?

 

The Position Statement reiterates the need for a balanced approach.

 

Q: Should the document advocate a process of continued review and updating of systems putting more emphasis on the needs and benefits of the tree?

 

Q: Further to this point should a duty of care for a tree include management practices that reduce the risk, both now and in the long term and not just the immediate obvious risk?

 

This could include the habitat management of the tree.

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This is a very serious thread, and I havent yet sat down and given this document the time it deserves, I think we ALL should do this post haste, as will i this evening and reply fully shortly.

 

I also think we should refrain from any other (non related) discussion bar the points raised by Batiarb here, this is an important issue and we really do need to discuss this properly. :biggrin:

 

So with that in mind I shall go do some homework, that is, ( the doc i mean!) I have to admit now long overdue.

 

Many thanks to Batiarb and Tony sorensen for highlighting this.:thumbup1:

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This is a very serious thread,

 

So with that in mind I shall go do some homework, that is, ( the doc i mean!) I have to admit now long overdue.

 

:

 

 

Yes, it is one of those documents that get printed off with the intention of going though it, put to one side and forgotten about.

 

We cannot afford to let this one slip by.

 

It has significant ramifications that must not be overlooked......

 

Happy bed time reading.

 

:thumbup:

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We've had Neville & his DARM associate in to peer review our tree risk policy.

So the points here are pertinent to our current tree philosophy.

 

I'm not in a position to quote how we are moving forward with this "common sense approach" as key points are yet finalised locally & the policy is currently being written up as we speak.

 

But our inspection criterior and schedules have been reviewed & amended accordingly, taking into account our training, resources, growing ecological & well being awareness & the afore mentioned risk statistics, as well as other aspects of management.

 

 

 

Fine post Andrew, thought provoking for the membership, as the near future will become a significantly different place, (from how I understand it) to the workers, managers & owners, of one of our most fragile, precious & rewarding assetts we all share.

 

 

.

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Well the printer is churning out the 80+ pages now, and as I have Friday off then that shall be my reading day. My initial, yet maybe erroneous thought, is that by bringing in more work (both paper-based and practical) in the way of managing defective trees effectively it increases the burden placed on tree owners. This may put them off retaining potentially defective but non-hazardous trees and they may still opt to fell them or severely prune them in order to reduce the amount of hassle.

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I my humble opinion a defect lead policy is not where the industry should end up. It has to be all about the target area, there are very few if any reasonable reasons to manage a tree that target ares is occupied by one man and a dog once every year five years.

 

I also hold the opinion that an appropriate inspection regime should also be determined by how large a land owner is and what resource they have or should have at their disposal.

 

I to have not had time to read the document, does anyone know what it says about S 154 of the Highways Act (1980)?

 

Has this document suggest new legislation for tree safety bring together the above Misc. Pro. 1974, Occ. Lia. 1957 and 1984?

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Well the printer is churning out the 80+ pages now, and as I have Friday off then that shall be my reading day. My initial, yet maybe erroneous thought, is that by bringing in more work (both paper-based and practical) in the way of managing defective trees effectively it increases the burden placed on tree owners. This may put them off retaining potentially defective but non-hazardous trees and they may still opt to fell them or severely prune them in order to reduce the amount of hassle.

 

 

To be quite frank the opposite is likely to be the case if the full implications of this guidance document are implemented.

 

The whole thing really points towards a current situation that encourages far more tree work than is warranted or can be statistically justified.

 

The impetus of the document is in fact to reduce tree pruning to a minimum and avoid unnecessary work.

 

We are on the dawn of a significant evolutionary transition in arboriculture where the future is about tree ecological/environmental care and not simply tree surgery (lopping and chopping).

 

Yes I know we all love it but the fact is it is not doing the trees and our environment any good at all. By far the majority of it is unjustifiable.

 

We need to be looking at tree management techniques that consider the big picture. This guidance is about broadening the scope of arboriculture. It is about being realistic when it comes to assessing the value of trees.

 

However, we need to look at this seriously because it does have major implications for how we recommend tree work and undertake tree management.

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Point 1- in answer to the question Batiarb raised to it.

 

Further elaboration is needed on "essential works" it is clear that some though never "definitive" because definitive answer cant be achieved though is required and some "effort" should be made to at the very least make some points on what is deemed "esssential"

 

however the doc does go some way throughout its content to explain and elaborate on this point.

 

It is unfortunate that many practitioners still however fail to correctly determine what actualy is "imminent" this kind of judgment requires a very high level of awareness of many varied defects and biotic influences.

 

A hard line to call, maybe expecting them to take on "essential" elaboration is a bridge past and will swamp the essential message to be gleaned from this. the most important is that trees have far more value than they do risk, both to human health and eco system services.

 

Its very hard to quantify common sense or "inclusional insight"

 

The Draft Document implies this by stating........ “The term ‘defect’ can be misleading, as the significance of structural deformities in trees (variations from a perceived norm) can be extremely variable. Indeed, deformities can be a response to internal hollowing or decay, compensating for loss of wood strength and providing mechanical advantage, allowing the tree to adapt to wind and gravitational forces. With inadequate understanding, so-called defects may be erroneously confused with hazards and, furthermore, hazards with risk – so unless the risk of harm arising from a hazard is properly taken account of, management can be seriously misinformed, potentially leading to costly tree intervention (pruning).”

 

Q: Does the term essential works require further definition? Does this:

 

a. Suggest that the current methodologies for assessing trees and proposing work for risk reduction are flawed?

 

b. Indicate a miss-application of available methodologies and technologies?

 

c. Highlight a disparity between what is practiced and what is necessary stimulated and created by a perception of a disproportionate legal responsibility?

 

in answer-

 

I think this indicates an over zelous use and expense of shiny things that justify big bills and interpretation of defects that is disproportionate to the risks versus the benifits. E.G clear fells when a reduction would more than suffice etc etc

 

and a clear disparity between percieved risk and responsibility and actual liability potential. People are paranoid of the law, and it will only get worse as we move to a more "americanised culture"

 

Point 2 raised

 

In answer-

 

this is dodgy ground! basicaly this is the "establishment" assuming they know better, what they are implying is that what us "loppers" do is asume that our pruning is in somehow benificial to the tree.

 

YES WE DO! but I will elaborate. Big mature trees in the urban context propose more chance of damage than smaller ones and well maintained trees tend to suffer far smaller scale failures than do over mature ones. Smaller ramified branches from regrowth tend to fold in the wind, far better than a heavy un reduced and burdened limb, whose wieght tends to be also far greater causing far more impact damage on failure.

 

As the document elucidates throughout, it is the managment of trees over the last decade that has "managed the risks" to then detract that in the statement Batiarb has pointed out is condtradictory!

 

Point three

 

answer- YES YES YES! we should DEFINATELY be taking eco system services and human health and well being into account, these aspects provide more far far more than the balance of risk, so why should these factors be left out?

 

How can we use only a one sided argument, that on the side of risk, when there is a much bigger picture to be "included"

 

lastly, 4

 

4. The Draft Document advocates a system of inspection and works to reduce risk, pointing out the need for “essential works” but does not put forward a system to balance this risk with the benefits from trees.

 

Q: Does this potentially contradict points 1-3 raised above and what is considered essential works?

 

The Position Statement reiterates the need for a balanced approach.

 

Q: Should the document advocate a process of continued review and updating of systems putting more emphasis on the needs and benefits of the tree?

 

Q: Further to this point should a duty of care for a tree include management practices that reduce the risk, both now and in the long term and not just the immediate obvious risk?

 

This could include the habitat management of the tree.

 

Do we not already do this, for the long term i mean? when we stipulate a spec do we not take into account at the least the next five years, and is this not enough in our views? I would like to see retrenchment programs as common knowledge, maybe this spec is what we are talking about here? the LONG, long term managment of a tree, both ecologicaly valuable and astheticaly so. A lot of the old (obviously to an informal) trees that us arbs get called to prune are late mature, showing first signs of retrenchment, this needs to be recognised as what it is, and the inherant value these trees have just begun to contribute to "eco system services"

 

Overall i am very happy with the "tone" of the document, but as andy points out there is need for some "elaboration" on key points, as currently it appears to offer some scope for "artistic liceance" and it is "interpretation" and manipulation that has allowed the negative perception of trees to get thus far!

 

And i think that is OUR fault, not just the press.

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