Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer
After some years, many meetings, three consultations and not a little negotiation, the second edition of the National Tree Safety Group (NTSG) Guidance is now approaching publication.
The NTSG was formed in 2007 in response to the then wide-ranging concerns about unnecessary removal of trees from fear of litigation, where fallen trees had resulted in personal injury compensation claims. The first edition of the guidance was published in 2011 and was focused around five basic principles:
- Trees provide a wide variety of benefits to society.
- Trees are living organisms that naturally lose branches or fall.
- The overall risk to human safety is extremely low.
- Tree owners have a legal duty of care.
- Tree owners should take a balanced and proportionate approach to tree safety management.
The work on the second edition began in 2018 and was proposed to be a relatively ‘light touch’ revision. It was intended to address issues such as pest and disease, consistency of terminology and also to reflect legal judgments in the intervening period. The initial consultation with the stakeholder organisations that make up NTSG gave the editorial working group plenty to get our drafting teeth into. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) raised a number of issues which steered the editorial group to clarify the separation between criminal and civil law liability, which led to exploring the concept of balancing tree-related benefits with risk and how this can legally be applied. Interestingly, HSE’s position has evolved since the publication of the first edition.
As a result of protracted discussions and further consultation, the second edition draft still incorporates the same five basic principles and the main message and structure of the guidance is mostly unchanged. However, the way in which tree risk management is introduced now looks through two different lenses, of criminal and civil law, which reflect the distinctions discussed with the HSE. NTSG is very grateful to the many individuals and organisations who have contributed and helped steer us through a long and fascinating discussion. NTSG’s editorial drafting group hope you will find the second edition to be worth the wait and to accurately reflect modern tree risk management that is sensible, reasonable and balanced.
As with the first edition, in addition to the main guidance document, there will be a summary version – much more concise – which will be useful for many duty holders of all sizes to understand how the principles are applied, with the main document containing references and a full explanation of the reasoning behind the NTSG position. The main guidance will be available as a hard copy document from the Association’s online bookshop and will be downloadable from the NTSG website, which is also due to be updated and refreshed in the near future.
This article was taken from Issue 203 Winter 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.