Tree safety and maintenance

Owners of trees are liable in law for any damage they may cause if they shed branches or if they fall over. For this reason it is important to have a regular program of tree maintenance carried out both to minimise any risks to yourself or the public and to enable you to demonstrate that all possible measures were taken to prevent accidents.

This page lists out the various ways in which you can help make your trees as safe as possible.

Dead wooding and inspection

All trees have dead wood. This does not mean they are unhealthy, but when a branch has become shaded out it is no longer of any use, so the tree lets it go.

Unfortunately dead wood falling from trees can cause damage to people, cars and buildings underneath especially if the tree is in a high risk area such as on the side of a road.

Removing the dead wood from the tree usually involves a climber cutting all dead branches as well as removing any hanging branches.

This also provides an excellent opportunity to inspect the tree for any damage that is not visible from the ground.

Pros:
  • Keeps the tree safe from falling dead wood. This is most important when the tree is next to a road or in an area where people pass underneath frequently.
  • Enables any problems with the tree to be spotted early as part of the inspection.

Cons:

  • Dead wood is habitat for a wide variety of insect larva. Birds and other wildlife will use it as a food source. Obviously if a tree is in a high risk position, safety will take presidence over wildlife considerations.

Storm damage and broken limb removal

Storms and high winds will often result in broken branches in the crown of the tree. The branch may still be partially attached but no longer safe.

Such limbs need to be removed as soon as possible, especially if the tree is in a high risk position.

Pros:
  • Ensures safety of tree.

Cons:

  • Eliminates wildlife habitat. Some species of bat, in particular, roost in splits in tree branches.

Cable bracing

If there is a danger of a side limb breaking off the main tree, the limb can be supported by using cable bracing.

Pros:
  • Helps to reduce the risk of the limb pulling away from the main stem.

Cons:

  • Cabling several stems together can make them move together in the wind, rather than independently. This will mean that more pressure is put on the base of the tree when it sways in the wind.

Felling

Sometimes it is necessary to remove a tree entirely. Felling can sometimes be done simply by cutting at the base, but more often than not, it will require the tree to be dismantled piece by piece to avoid damage to adjacent buildings, fences, plants etc.

Pros:
  • Ensures safety when a tree is severely compromised.

Cons:

  • Produces much more waste than pruning which increases the cost.
  • Eliminates wildlife habitat.
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