July 2016 | Hōngongoi
Health and Safety | He Hauora
In his series on safety advice for parishes, Stephen Harrison, Manager Assets and Risks, Archdiocese of Wellington, this month outlines parish responsibilities around tree hazards.
Trees provide significant benefits to our churches and homes by way of foliage, shade, aesthetics and so on. But occasionally they can cause problems or sometimes injure people and damage property.
Dealing with hazards can ensure the safety of people and property and can prolong the life of the tree.
Trees are inherently safe structures but in extremes of weather or because of in-built weaknesses, they can become dangerous. We call trees in such situations ‘hazardous’ ‒ to signify the risk involved with their presence. Every tree has the potential to shed branches or fall over, but very few actually cause injury to people or property.
It is an owner’s responsibility to provide for the safety of trees on his or her property. However, evaluating the seriousness of any defects is best done by a professional arborist. Regular tree care will help identify hazardous trees and the risk they present. Once the hazard is recognised, steps may be taken to reduce the likelihood of the tree falling and injuring someone.
Tree-hazard checklist for parishes
Consider and, if necessary, act on these questions.
- Are there large dead branches in the tree?
- Are there detached branches hanging in the tree?
- Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the trunk or in major branches?
- Are mushrooms present at the base of the tree?
- Are there cracks or splits in the trunk or where branches are attached?
- Have any branches fallen from the tree?
- Have adjacent trees fallen over or died?
- Has the trunk developed a strong lean?
- Do many of the major branches arise from one point on the trunk?
- Have the roots been broken off, injured, or damaged by lowering the soil level, installing a pavement, repairing footpaths, or digging trenches?
- Has the site recently been changed by construction, raising the soil level, or installing lawns?
- Have the leaves prematurely developed an unusual colour or size?
- Have trees in adjacent wooded areas been removed?
- Has the tree been topped or otherwise heavily pruned?
- Does the tree have any of the above and is it within falling distance of people or property?
- Is the tree growing near or potentially touching overhead power lines (if so, contact local lines company about tree-trimming requirements).