A Plague of Tree Inspectors

Via JuliaM, we get this story in the Telegraph:

Homeowners could have to pay a specialist to regularly examine their garden trees, under proposals for a new safety standard which could lead to thousands being felled.

The British standard for tree safety inspection would require tree-owners to conduct an annual “walk-by” inspection and get them checked by a “trained person” every three years.

A more rigorous and expensive “expert inspection” would then need to be carried out by a qualified arboriculturist every five years.

The British Standards Institution (BSI), which usually oversees building and engineering regulations, is behind the drive to make all trees which grow near public access areas subject to inspection. The plans are currently under public consultation.

I commented on Julia’s blog, but thought I’d expand a little here. Not least, because I have some experience in health and safety management. Just as an aside, H&S management and risk assessment is not in the least bit difficult as I will now illustrate.

Firstly, just what is the risk? Well, helpfully, the article tells us:

On average six people a year are killed by falling trees, compared with 647 deaths from tripping down stairs, making the probability of a fatal accident less than one in two million.

Actually, given a population of around 60 million, it is probably less that that suggested by the Telegraph; more like around one in ten million. Now, take away all those trees on private land that is not accessible to the public and it reduces further. Okay, yes, I am aware of the common law duty of care not to injure trespassers, but the risk is already so low as to be negligible, that I am discounting it. Then take away all those trees that are publicly accessible but not on private land (who will take responsibility for them, I wonder?) and the risk is, frankly, miniscule.

The Health and Safety at Work etc., Act (1974) places a requirement on the employer to reduce risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. Although the act does not give a definition, legal precedent does. In essence, if the time, cost and effort outweighs the reduction in risk, then that risk is as low as is reasonably practicable. Given a risk as low as this, then it is already as low as is reasonably practicable. The cost, time and effort proposed is disproportionate and will have negligible effect on the risk. It is, therefore, nothing more than a glorified job creation exercise at the expense of landowners. Typical quango thinking – who cares? Someone else is paying.

Now, I could be generous here and suggest that the BSI is applying the hierarchy of risk – i.e. eliminate the risk where possible. However, that is intended for the work environment where a change in working practice or use of machinery can eliminate exposure to risk. It clearly does not apply here, unless we cut down all the trees in the country.

So, we are back to the job creation scheme…

I note from the article that there is a case upon which this stupid idea hinges:

In 2006 Gary Poll, a motorcyclist, collided with a fallen branch on a road in Somerset and made a claim against the landowners. The judge ruled that if arboriculturists had been called in, the accident could have been averted.

So, the landowner was negligent and loss occurred. The injured party sued. This tells me that English common law worked exactly as it is supposed to. What we have here is the law working as intended yet a quango wants to impose regulation and inspection to solve a problem that does not need solving because, frankly, it does not exist.

Something tells me that these people were right all along:



  1. are you convinced that Cameron will be any different ?


    Ps like the poster.

    It’s from the nineteen twenties. They really had these people sussed way back then.

  2. Of course the poster refers to the days when we had a Conservative Party, instead of the NuLab-wannabee that currently infests the political landscape.

    Yokel recently posted about being included in the new village Conservation Area. It will require official notification and permission before any work on any tree that is greater than 7.5 cm in diameter at 1.5 metres above the ground. There is contemplation of felling the trees before the Conservation Area is imposed. Shame.

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