Landowners have a general “duty of care” to
visitors (including trespassers) under the Owner’s and Occupiers
Liability Act. If a tree falls and causes damage to people or property
the owner will be liable if it can be proven that he/she has been
negligent. Trees should be managed to reduce any risk they pose to
a reasonable level. Tree owners must be able to show that regular
tree inspections have taken place, especially on trees by roadsides.
This would involve employing a competent tree specialist to periodically
inspect the tree and provide a report on its condition, and in between
these periods, the tree owner would be expected to check the tree
on a regular basis for any externally visible signs of weakness.
This duty of care was further clarified in the judgement in Poll
v Viscount Asquith of Morley, 2006 where a lack of appropriate inspection
of roadside trees by a competent specialist was deemed to be negligence
on behalf of the tree owner.
For commercial landowners, an effective system for managing trees
should meet the requirements set out in the Management of Health
and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the associated ACoP (guidance
is contained in HSG 65 Successful health and safety management and
INDG 163 Five steps to risk assessment) and should include regular,
competent tree inspections and the undertaking of works to maintain
Our appraisal of tree safety is designed to help landowners discharge
their legal responsibilities.