Council fined after death of girl hit by falling tree at school
The 6-year-old pupil was playing with friends at her school when she was killed by a falling willow tree. Several other children were hit by the falling tree but managed to escape, some with superficial injuries. HSE's investigation found that the tree had decayed and was in a poor condition. Newcastle City Council had failed to identify the extent of the decay or to manage the risk posed by the tree and were fined £280,000.
Read HSE's press release for more details on this incident. HSE website also has guidance on managing the risk from falling trees.
Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer at the Arboricultural Association, gave FISA this additional comment:
This tragic accident highlights the need for adequate tree survey and inspection of trees in areas frequently used by people. Trees are essential for the health of our cities and urban areas, providing multiple benefits to individuals and communities; they are also natural organic structures that will, inevitably, decay and fail at some point. Although the overall risk of death or injury from a falling tree or branch is incredibly low, tree owners – duty holders – have a responsibility to take reasonable and proportionate care to manage their tree stock. For larger land owners, a tree strategy that considers the overall tree population and includes planned tree survey and inspection, according to the likely levels of occupation, is an essential requirement for competent management. This particular case also demonstrates how important it is to have a robust system that ensures information is managed and communicated in a timely and effective way.
The National Tree Safety Group (NTSG) has produced guidance for tree owners and managers, from householders to national organisations, to help duty holders develop reasonable tree risk management systems – see ntsgroup.org.uk
Training in basic, intermediate and professional tree inspection is available from the Arboricultural Association and other industry training providers – see https://www.trees.org.uk/Training-And-Events.