Safety of trees on school premises and playing fields
A recent HSE prosecution, Council fined £280,000 after death of 6-year-old girl hit by falling tree, highlights the importance of ensuring those responsible for school premises have effective systems in place to manage trees on their sites, particularly those in areas frequently accessed by pupils, staff and the public.
Schools should consider the risks presented by any trees that they are responsible for and ensure a competent person identifies and prioritises trees accordingly, using a zoning system. For example, trees in areas likely to be frequently accessed by pupils, staff or visitors should be allocated to zone 1 with trees in less frequently accessed areas placed in zone 2.
Competent persons should have relevant training, skills, experience and knowledge. Training courses are available concerning identification of tree defects from providers such as the Arboricultural Association who offer Basic, Intermediate and Professional Tree Inspection training.
A competent person should undertake inspections of trees to identify any defects such as disease or structural integrity. Inspections can range from a light touch visual inspection to a more detailed formal inspection by a specialist. The type of required inspection will vary based upon the tree’s location (i.e. which zone it is in) and any prior indication of structural instability or disease.
Where defects have been identified by a competent person, but a decision is made to preserve any tree that presents a risk, a tree management plan should be put in place and regularly reviewed as required, for example if the tree’s condition worsens because of damage, disease or adverse weather.
Where checks reveal defects that are outside the experience and knowledge of the person carrying them out, a system should be in place for obtaining specialist assistance and/or remedial action.
Schools should put in place effective monitoring to ensure that the arrangements are communicated and implemented in practice.
Common sense risk management of trees – landowner summary (forestresearch.gov.uk)