Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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Hazard Tree Inspection: A Practitioner’s Guide

Author:  Fiona Melville
Last Updated:  05/12/2018
Delegates in Stirling for Scottish Branch’s Hazard Tree Inspection course.

Delegates in Stirling for Scottish Branch’s Hazard Tree Inspection course.

Following on from the huge success of last year’s event, this year’s two-day Hazard Tree Inspection course was again completely booked with twenty-six participants attending from Inverness, Aberdeen and right down to sunny South Wales!

We had an interesting mix of participants ranging from independent consultants and tree surgeons to council tree officers. We chose the same venue, the Stirling Court Hotel located on the Stirling University Campus, which gave us very useful access to a varied selection of mature trees growing in a typical urban environment with differing occupancy rates. The one major difference this time around was the company of Storm Ali, who like his (or her) namesake packed a fair punch! However, our tutor, Chris Simpson, made the call and we stayed inside for the first day watching the trees ‘bend’ from the comfort of the classroom.

Chris, a Chartered Forester, Fellow of the Arboricultural Association, Member of the Expert Witness Institute, Lantra instructor and City & Guilds assessor, has over 30 years’ experience working in the industry, with particular expertise in assessing the safety of urban trees and providing advice to landowners such as Forestry Commission Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and NHS Scotland – we were again in good hands!

Day one highlighted the importance of using a current accepted industry approach when carrying out hazard tree inspections, for example, the National Tree Safety Group (NTSG), the International Society for Arboriculture (ISA) Basic Tree Risk Assessment and the Visual Tree Assessment (VTA) method widely practised here in the UK. We studied systematic practical inspection techniques and the information to be recorded during an inspection, identified essential equipment required and reviewed structural defect features and whether these features may mean failure is ‘foreseeable’. We had a recap of significant wood decay fungi, their significance and identification, using Chris’s wide and varied collection of fungi with a couple of red herrings thrown in to keep us on our toes!

On day two, working in small groups, we inspected selected trees, collecting the necessary information on a template tree survey schedule. This information was processed back in the classroom with a step-by-step demonstration of how to visualise trees on a Google Map which can be easily shared with the client. The presentation of this data and defensible feedback for the client was discussed in detail using the professional report structure provided in the course handout. Chris highlighted the importance of making clear and concise management recommendations with prioritised timescales for work completion. Professional reports should always reference the advice given in BS3998:2010: Tree Work – Recommendations, using the standard’s terminology when specifying tree works to avoid any client confusion or misunderstanding. We finished the day with another look at wood decay fungi – must be an arb thing!

A certificate of attendance was awarded to all our candidates who also gained 12 hours’ worth of continued professional development (CPD). Course participants were able to download all of the presentations from Chris’s website and took home a comprehensive course handout complete with colour pictures of significant decay fungi. This document, in the author’s experience, proves to be a valuable aide memoir for future surveying and reporting. The course is in demand and Chris was heading off south of the border to deliver it to the South-West Branch of the Arboricultural Association. We would very much like to see this course in Scotland again soon.

Article taken form Issue 183 of The ARB Magazine. Members can view their copy here.