Understanding the legal obligations to which landowners must comply is a complex matter which can often be misunderstood or neglected by professionals and laypeople alike.
The aim of this brief article is to clear up some of the confusion, and highlight the very minimum requirements that must be met.
What is “Duty of Care”?
When it comes to tree management, the most basic responsibility of a landowner is their ‘duty of care’. This refers to the legal obligation in which the landowner’s actions must meet a ‘standard of care’ in which public safety is considered.
Put very simply, the landowner has an obligation to ensure that a reasonable attempt has been made to protect any person from incurring harm as a result of their property.
If a duty holder is negligent in their duty, they may be liable for prosecution or damages.
The Relevant Statutes
There are two main statutes in which duties are placed upon those responsible for trees:
Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and 1984
This act states that the land’s occupier must take reasonable care to ensure than any visitors, invited or otherwise, are safe from harm.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Section 3)
The health and safety act requires employers to take precautionary action to ensure that “persons not under their employment are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.”
What is a landowner expected to do?
So, when it comes to tree management, what are these acts expecting of duty holders?
- Routine tree surveys should be undertaken where tree failure could be a risk to the safety of people or property.
- The intensity and frequency of these tree surveys should consider how close people and property are to any particular tree, and also the period and frequency in which they are located in a “target area”.
- Any remedial works outlined in the tree survey should be undertaken in a timely manner.
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