A recent accident in which a 10-year-old boy and his carer were injured by a falling tree branch at a school in regional Victoria is a stark reminder to review the safety of all trees around your facility.
Trees and shrubs provide a lot of benefits such as shade for hot days, giving a site a beautiful outlook and aesthetic value, as well as increasing a building’s energy efficiency by blocking out sunlight and also oxygenating the air.
However, if they are not carefully managed and maintained, trees can cause property damage or result in serious injuries to staff, students and visitors.
It is important to regularly review all trees on your site, especially those that are overhanging playgrounds and buildings, and showing signs of aging or failure. Some trees, depending on their age and condition, must be reviewed annually and other low-risk trees only need to be reviewed every two years.
What is a tree audit?
A tree audit is conducted by qualified arborists who identify and assess tree assets in relation to their condition, retention value, risk rating and management requirements. Ideally, they should survey the entire tree population at your property and include an inventory on every tree along with an ongoing management plan. This is best presented on a site plan showing the layout and locations of trees on your site. This information is then stored in a database which outlines the maintenance history, as well as an ongoing maintenance plan and scheduled works (pruning, treating, removal).
According to Danihers Facility Services Manager, Brad Vassal, you should check for the following in a tree inspection:
- Trees that are too close to buildings or branches which overhang the roof – trees need to reach their full-grown height away from structures.
- Tree cracks, decay, fungus and hollow cavities.
- Overly-dense foliage.
- Branches which are weak and brittle rather than flexible.
- Damaged or inadequate roots – tree roots should extend out all around it to provide stability.
- Old and diseased trees.
- Co-dominant trees.
Tell tale signs your trees are under stress or duress
Epicormic growth – The growth of new shoots from buds that lie dormant beneath the bark. This is often a reaction to being under stress or damage, commonly due to poor soil conditions, lack of water and insect attack. In severe cases it can result in limbs falling which is a risk.
Co-dominant Trees – When two similar size limbs stem from the main trunk growing in different directions. As the tree grows older both stems stay similar in size with no limb larger than the other. With the combined weight of the limbs a tree can split during heavy rain or high winds. Co-dominant trees are a high risk and fail more often than other tree conditions.
Brad also advises that when removing a large significant tree the general rule is to plant three new trees (preferably not of the same variety) in its place.
When planting new trees it is important to consider their full-grown height and maintain a good distance from structures. For every inch in tree diameter the roots may extend one foot under the tree.
Trees are very valuable assets, but the number one priority is to create a safe, healthy environment on site at all times.
Brad Vassal has more than 15 years’ experience in the facilities management industry across a range of areas, including landscape design, project management, grounds maintenance, construction and asset management.
Danihers Facility Management offers tree audits and management plans, garden and grounds maintenance, and landscaping services for your organisation. For more information or advice, contact us now. Call the Danihers Customer Service team on 1300 559 409 or call your Client Service Manager.
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