Tree Risk Management Responsibilities

 

“The information that I am requesting relates to the tree risk management responsibilities that fall within your highway management function for all road categories (excluding motorways) that carry vehicles, and is as follows:

1. How many fatalities due to highway tree failures (trees within falling distance of the highway that fell onto the road) have occurred in each of the five years from the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2017?

Devon County Council (DCC) data contains only the initial assessment of an officer attending the collision scene and, since it is the responsibility of the Coroner to comment on the cause of death, DCC does not hold a register of inquest findings.  The coroner may not necessarily uphold the initial assessment of the attending officer, so the initial assessment is insufficient to make an absolute judgement on the number of deaths, if any, attributable to this type of circumstance.  Furthermore, the specific nature of the incident outlined in the question is not one explicitly dealt with by police collision report forms.  The officer is able to record an incident as involving a vehicle striking an object in the carriageway but unless the nature of the object is later described by the officer, we would have no record of this.  It would, however, be a matter of record at inquest.

HM Coroner would be most likely to hold this information, but it should be noted that she is not subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

2. How many injuries due to highway tree failures have occurred in each of the five years from the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2017?

Between 2013 and 2017 there were 6 collisions and a resulting 9 casualties on Devon County Council roads.  DCC is unable to break these down into individual years under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 – ‘Personal Information’.  This is due to the numbers being 5 or less for each of the years in question, release of which could lead to the identification of the individuals concerned, which would be in breach of the Data Protection Act principles.

3. Does your highway authority have a formal tree risk management strategy/protocol/guide for inspecting highway trees? If so, could you please provide the document or a link to it?

Yes. DCC Tree Safety Management Policy. The Corporate Tree Board meets quarterly to keep the Tree Safety Management policy under review.

4. Does your highway authority require its highway inspectors to look for tree hazards as part of their highway inspection responsibilities?

Yes.  They are expected to report broken limbs, low branches and dead / dangerous trees in line with defects detailed in the highway safety inspection manual

If yes:

4.1. Does the highway authority have a published/formal policy to train highway inspectors in tree hazard recognition?

Yes, Highway Tree Safety Management Procedure

4.2. If the answer to 4.1 is ‘yes’, is that training through the LANTRA Basic Tree Inspection course, the LANTRA Professional Tree Inspection course, in-house training, or other out-sourced training?

Yes, Lantra Basic Tree Inspection Course – see Highway Tree Safety Management Procedure

4.3. Do highway inspectors have specific tree hazard recognition refresher training to keep up to date, and if so, how often?

Yes – every 5 years – see Highway Tree Safety Management Procedure

4.4. If the answer to 4.3 is ‘yes’, is that refresher training in-house or outsourced?

Outsourced.

4.5. Are the inspections carried out on foot or driven?

This information is available in the Highway Safety Inspection manual

4.6. If driven, please describe:

4.6.1. at what speed;

This is left to the professional discretion of the qualified inspector

4.6.2. how many operatives are in the vehicle;

Driven inspections will be undertaken by two people with the passenger being a qualified inspector.

4.6.3. whether spotters are expected to check trees and highway defects at the same time;

Yes

4.6.4. whether spotters are expected to carry checks on both sides of the road during one traverse of the route, whilst driving in a single direction; and,

Yes, however if in their professional opinion they feel they have not been able to undertake a full inspection, due to other factors such as parked cars, they may choose to inspect in both directions.

4.6.5. is there a formal list of tree conditions that trigger the vehicle to stop to allow the inspector to carry out a closer check?

No, the defect identified by the Highway Safety Inspector would need to be an obvious defect.  However, requests can be made for further investigation, via our tree management process, by a qualified tree inspector (via the tree inspection framework)

5. Has your highway authority implemented the advice set out in paragraph 5(4) of the Prevention of Future Deaths Report issued by the Berkshire Coroner on 17th July 2014 following the Michael Warren Inquest (https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/michael-warren/)?

DCC has a two tier system of inspection: i) a series of checks carried out by Highways Safety Inspectors and ii) a series of Inspections carried out by private arboricultural consultants employed via tender by the Authority.

  • DCC employs private Inspectors to carry out three yearly (currently under review) inspections on its Category 3 to 5 Highways.
  • Inspectors must be Arboricultural Association approved (or equivalent) and qualified to Arboricultural Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Level 3 (or equivalent) and are tangibly supervised by a person qualified to the standard recognised by QCF Level 5 (or equivalent).
  • Only trees are inspected during these inspections.
  • Having ensured that its Inspectors are suitably qualified the Authority does not direct its inspectors as to how they should conduct their inspections, therefore whether an inspection is walked or driven, or the appropriate speed to drive while carrying out the inspections is left to the professional judgement of the inspector on the day.
  • The County employs a tree officer and buys in the services of a higher qualified tree officer from a neighbouring authority to carry out periodic spot checks of the work carried out by its arboricultural consultants.

We await a response to paragraph 5(5) of the Prevention of Future Deaths Report issued by the Berkshire Coroner on 17th July 2014

Please note the answers below relate only to the Inspections carried out by Private Arboricultural Consultants employed via tender by the Authority (see answer to 5 above)

6. Does your highway authority use professional trained arboriculturists, either in-house or out-sourced, to check highway trees?

Yes

If so:

6.1 In addition to their basic training, does the highway authority have a published/formal policy to provide additional training for arboricultural inspectors through the LANTRA Basic Tree Inspection course, the LANTRA Professional Tree Inspection course, in-house training, or other out-sourced training?

To win a place on the DCC Tree inspection framework contract Inspectors must be Arboricultural Association approved (or equivalent) and qualified to Arboricultural Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Level 3 (or equivalent) and are tangibly supervised by a person qualified to the standard recognised by QCF Level 5 (or equivalent).

6.2 Do arboricultural inspectors have refresher training to keep up to date, and if so, how often?

All our contracted inspectors are members of the Arboricultural Association and meet the requirements of that organisations training schedule.

6.3 If the answer to the above question is ‘yes’, is that refresher training in-house or outsourced?

See answer to 6.2

6.4. Are the inspections carried out on foot or driven?

This is left to the professional discretion of the qualified inspector, but predominantly driven.

6.5. If driven, please describe:

6.5.1. at what speed;

This is left to the professional discretion of the qualified inspector

6.5.2. how many operatives are in the vehicle;

Our contract for Arboricultural inspections requires that there is a separate driver where inspections are driven.

6.5.3. whether spotters are expected to check trees on both sides of the road during one traverse of the route, whilst driving in a single direction;

This is left to the professional discretion of the qualified inspector.

6.5.4. is there a formal list of tree conditions that trigger the vehicle to stop to allow the inspector to carry out a closer check?

No – This is left to the professional discretion of the qualified inspector, but on spotting a defect the inspector would be obliged to stop in order to mark the tree and to fill out their report on their tablet, that links into the authorities mapping and reporting systems

7. At what frequency are highway tree inspections carried out by a) highway inspectors, and b) arboricultural inspectors, on A, B, and lower category roads. Please feel free to use the table below if it is of help.

Highway Inspector Tree inspector

A Roads (Insert frequency here) (Insert frequency here)

B Roads (Insert frequency here) (Insert frequency here)

Lower category roads (Insert frequency here) (Insert frequency here)

This information is contained within the DCC Tree Safety Management Policy, and is also covered by the Highway Safety Manual.