INFORMATION ON RISKS

INFORMATION ON RISKS

Sent by  tree campaigner Louise Wilkinson

Dear Supporter

We thought it might be helpful to have the facts on residual risks associated with trees in the UK in order to counter act any scaremongering or misconceptions that might continue to be out there:

From SIM (Health and safety executive [2007]. Management of the risk from falling trees. Hse sector information minute, sim 01/2007/05. [guidance for HSE inspectors and local authority enforcement officers]):

What is the risk?

1 Each year between 5 and 6 people in the UK are killed when trees fall on them. Thus the risk of being struck and killed by a tree falling is extremely low. Around 3 people are killed each year by trees in public spaces; but as almost the entire population of the UK is exposed, the risk per person is about one in 20 million. The risk, per tree, of causing fatality is of the order of one in 150 million for all trees in Britain or one in 10 million for those trees in, or adjacent to areas of high public use. However the low level of overall risk may not be perceived in this way by the public, particularly following an incident.

2 The average risk is firmly in the “broadly acceptable” region of the tolerability of risk triangle published in HSE’s “Reducing Risks Protecting People”. However, “Reducing Risks, Protecting People” explicitly states that “broadly acceptable” is a general guide and not a definitive statement of what is reasonably practicable in law.

What is required?

3 Employers, persons carrying out undertakings or in control of premises all have duties under the HSW Act. In particular, there is the duty to do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure that people are not exposed to risk to their health and safety. Doing all that is reasonably practicable does not mean that all trees have to be individually examined on a regular basis. A decision has to be taken on what is reasonable in the circumstances and this will include consideration of the risks to which people may be exposed. The issues that need to be included in the risk assessment are discussed in paragraph 10.

From the National Tree Safety Group – Common Sense Risk Management of Trees – Guidance on trees and public safety in the UK for owners, managers and advisers (page 24):

Research into deaths from falling trees

Guidance to help owners and managers make reasonable decisions about tree management needs to be backed up by reliable data on the actual level of risk posed by falling trees. Therefore, the National Tree Safety Group commissioned the centre for decision analysis and risk management at Middlesex University to quantify the risk of fatal and non-fatal injuries from falling or fallen trees and branches to the UK public. The research identified 64 deaths during the 10 years after 1 January 19995. With a UK population of roughly 60 million, this leads to an overall estimated risk of about one death in 10 million people per year from falling or fallen trees and branches. 
So far as non-fatal injuries in the UK are concerned, the number of accident and emergency cases (A&E) attributable to being struck by trees (about 55 a year) is exceedingly small compared with the roughly 2.9 million leisure-related A&E cases per year. Footballs (262,000), children’s swings (10,900) and even wheelie bins (2,200) are involved in many more incidents.

A Comparison of risks of death

Table 1 is reproduced from HSE’s Reducing risks, protecting people with the risk of falling and fallen trees added for comparative purposes.

Table 1. Annual risk of death from various causes over entire population:

Cause of death annual risk Basis of risk and source:

Cancer 1 in 387 England and Wales 1999

Injury and poisoning 1 in 3,137 UK 1999

All types of accidents and other external causes
1 in 4,064 UK 1999

all forms of road accident
1 in 16,800 UK 1999

Lung cancer from radon in dwellings
1 in 29,000 England 1996

Gas incident (fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning)
1 in 1,510,000 GB 1994/95–1998/99

From trees
1 in 10,000,000 or less if high wind incidents are excluded from this study

From lightning
1 in 18,700,000 England and Wales 1995–99

SORT also has a view on the new panel announced that is to be Chaired by Mr Andy Buck and Cllr Fox’s recent statement about canvassing residents on roads for their feelings on the roadside trees with 50% deciding on the trees’s fate:

“Recently, Cllr Terry Fox has been saying that residents will be surveyed for their views on the trees on their road and whether they want them to be felled or not. Any “hot spots” as he calls them, can then be identified and sent on to the new, so-called “independent” panel. This may sound reasonable on the surface until you give it serious consideration. It means that trees are being treated as a life style choice rather than a public health matter. Imagine if we had taken that approach to smoking in public places? It is like going to an individual restaurant or bar and asking, whomever happens to be there at the time, “Do you or do you not want smoking here?”. Like smoking, our trees are a public health issue – not a life style or fashion choice. If Mr Bloggs in one postcode decides to get rid of his tree because it interferes with the parking of his 4×4 that can easily go on to affect someone else in another postcode who suffers from asthma due to air pollution. Any needlessly felled healthy, mature and safe trees go on to affect all our city’s air quality, ecology and amenity value. The elderly, children and sick are particularly susceptible to air pollution and we are have one of the worst records in the country. Generation after generation could be affected by the actions we do or do not take today.
We are not anti-improvement – we are pro-proportional actions – and needless felling in the face of alternative solutions, we believe would be foolish on the part of Cllr Fox, Streets Ahead and their contractor Amey”.

Thank you.

Best regards

Louise Wilcockson
Save Our Roadside Trees

“Safety is but one of the many goals to which we aspire; the mistake is often made to focus on safety as if it is the only goal.” – Professor Davis Ball – Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management Middlesex University – From NTSG: Common Sense Risk Management of Trees – Guidance on trees and public safety in the UK for owners, managers and advisers (2007)

“So far as non-fatal injuries in the UK are concerned, the number of accident and emergency cases (A&E) attributable to being struck by trees (about 55 a year) is exceedingly small compared with the roughly 2.9 million leisure-related A&E cases per year. Footballs (262,000), children’s swings (10,900) and even wheelie bins (2,200) are involved in many more incidents.” – National Tree Safety Group (NTSG) report.

“What is the risk? 1) Each year between 5 and 6 people in the UK are killed when trees fall on them. Thus the risk of being struck and killed by a tree falling is extremely low. Around 3 people are killed each year by trees in public spaces; but as almost the entire population of the UK is exposed, the risk per person is about one in 20 million. The risk, per tree, of causing fatality is of the order of one in 150 million for all trees in Britain or one in 10 million for those trees in, or adjacent to areas of high public use. However the low level of overall risk *may not be perceived in this way by the public, particularly following an incident.” – from SIM (Health and safety executive [2007]. Management of the risk from falling trees. Hse sector information minute, sim 01/2007/05. [guidance for HSE inspectors and local authority enforcement officers]. *We have a duty of care not to exaggerate, scaremonger or exploit misperceptions.

This entry was posted in Latest News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s