Service Summary

Welcome to The Green Man Arboricultural Consultancy

This website supports the consultancy business based in North Wales and which operates throughout the United Kingdom providing a wide range of arboricultural services including: home buyers tree reports, tree condition reports, development site surveys and reports, woodland assessment and management plans and general advice relating to trees.

For further information or to discuss your requirements please contact us on: 01978 821 851/ 07981 912 162 or via green.woman@hotmail.co.uk

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tree Surveys & Site Safety

I have re-opened the poll for aspects of arboriculture that people are interested in learning more about. Tree biology is still the hot favourite however today I am posting about tree management.

My sister recently asked if she could come out on site with me and bring my nephew so they could better understand what I do for a living. I of course said yes as I love spending time with them both, talking about trees and I am always trying to coax youngsters into the industry!

I have recently been involved with a school group using a woodland I manage as an outdoor classroom and had an opportunity to talk to the group of children aged between 8-9 about trees and some of the really interesting things about them. It was a very rewarding experience and they bombarded me with great questions.

Anyway, I started thinking about my family being on site with me and the best sites to take them to which made me reassess the safety of my working environment so I thought I would post about my role as a tree inspector and cover the safety aspects of that role, and what I do for tree inspections.

I am always aware of the hazards however for myself they are a part of my job that I am used to being aware of and I act accordingly on site instinctively. As a result I am going to visit a non work related public site with my family so that we may take the time to go through inspecting trees without the hazards involved in my daily job.

Site Hazards

The first and most obvious hazard is that I work with trees that can be very large and in a poor condition, I therefore am responsible for assessing the safety of the tree from a distance and then as I get closer before I even start taking measurements and making notes.

Trees may have hanging branches, loose deadwood or be unstable and it is obviously important to ascertain that before I start.

There is also livestock to be aware of, they are generally not dangerous however it is always good to know if they are there and where exactly they are. Being surprised by a bull is not fun, for either of you!

Many of the sites I visit have access constraints either to keep people out or keep livestock or people in! I am pretty deft at climbing a variety of fences with minimal personal harm however I of course carry a first aid kit with me at all times.

There are also numerous safety issues throughout the sites I visit at ground level. Animal waste is a big issue, I usually wear rigger boots which in addition to the steel protection for my feet protect the bottom of my clothes so if I do tread in something it stays on my shoes only. The rigger boots are a personal choice and have shielded my feet from many a nail.

Site maintenance work is common however many jobs seem to be left unfinished and grass grows quickly. There are often uncovered drains and inspection chambers, collapsed utility cables which may or may not be live, curb stones and pitted hard standing, in addition to badger setts, rabbit burrows, areas of bog, deep water!

Site traffic or traffic on adjacent highways is also an issue. Not being on the road does not guarantee that you are out of danger. A colleague of mine was nearly hit by a car loosing control on a highway adjacent to the site he was working on.

The car finished up metres away from where he was surveying however he was paying close attention to the adjacent hazard and managed to move out of the way in good time.

There is also the lone working aspect of my job and I am frequently in remote areas however my company operates an excellent lone working policy which gives me assurance. In addition I often take my two German Shepherds with me and no one is getting anywhere near me with them around!

Linked to this issue is the matter of the public who can respond in a variety of ways when they encounter you. Many people are scared about coming across someone wondering around, I have been accused of many things on site especially when I have my hammer in my hand! Some people are very friendly and like to chat to you about trees, often dog walkers who tend to be out and about enjoying the countryside with their dogs. There is the occasional odd looking person and groups of people enjoying themselves with fires and beers are also best to be avoided. In my experience people out enjoying them selves are rarely a threat and usually very approachable however due to the lone working environment it is best not to take that risk.

And there is finally a small percentage of people who will be annoyed with you for a number of reasons: some suspect you are planning to remove the trees and don't want you too, some want the trees to be removed as they don't want them there, some suspect you are going to build on the site and have strong feelings about that, some assume you work for the council and want to complain about their taxes or the bin collections, some think they have a right to camp on the site and do not like to be approached or spoken to, once you have identified yourself as someone involved in the site management you can instantly become public enemy number one and their reaction to you can be volatile.

It is best to go to site with your own safety foremost in your mind, avoid contact with the public where possible and report issues out of your control to the appropriate department.

We employ security staff to deal with trespassers. They are usually teams of men used to dealing with aggressive people and are appropriately trained for any eventuality. I am not!

Tree Surveys

Following the initial assessment of the site you are working on tree surveying may commence.

There are different types of tree surveys which are dependant on the clients needs and the trees proximity to areas of public usage or utilities.

Most commonly I perform full tree condition surveys which involves me mapping the trees location on a site plan and recording full data regarding their size and condition.

We record the following data for tree identification and condition assessment:

Species, height, stem girth, age class. All trees have a potential size and form specific to their species. They are however also subject to the stimulus of their environment which has an impact on their growth habits. This is an important factor to consider when purchasing trees for planting. It is vital that you are aware of how big they can get and what the form of their crowns is likely to be in maturity.

I have seen many examples of large trees planted in small front gardens which will cause severe issues for the residents who are living there when the trees reach maturity. The favourite for this seems to be Monkey Puzzle trees, Araucaria araucana.

These trees have very attractive and interesting foliage and I often see them for sale at nurseries in among the shrubs with no information about their ultimate size, nor the size of the cones they produce.

Following measurement of a tree we record its structural form and condition. This relates to stem and branch form which may be multi stemmed or single stemmed and includes comments regarding the condition of main branch unions.

My post An Introduction to Tree Biology - How Trees Grow #1 included comments and pictures of trees with tight stem unions that predispose the to structural failure.

The physiological condition of the tree is then assessed from branch tip to root collar. The inspection is made to assess for branch die back which can be indicative of root damage or root and stem disease.

See An Introduction to Tree Biology - Root I & II

The assessment also looks for deadwood, which can also be attributed to root damage or root and stem issues, damaged branches, cracks and splits in branches which may be significant in terms of required tree care or may provide habitat for bats and birds, evidence of any damage to the crown of the tree or evidence of any pests and diseases. Evidence of previous tree management, and development of cavities and/ or decay which can occur at pruning wounds and are noted if significant, any signs of habitat within the tree such as woodpecker holes or bird nests which are always recorded, and the shape and form of the crown which may indicate significant site issues such as prevailing winds or competition for light from adjacent cover or structures.

The foliage of a tree is also assessed in addition to it's annual branch extension growth. The colour of a trees leaves can indicate poor tree health as well as being the site for numerous pests, and extension growth can give an indication of the trees health in this and previous growing seasons.

Once a full assessment of the crown and branches of a tree have been made the stem and root collar are inspected for associated defects such as fibre buckling, cracks and splits, loose or necrotic bark which may be evidence of previous wounding or disease, and any other symptoms of issues such as swelling of the stem, the fruiting bodies of fungus which may or may not be significant.

The ground around the tree is also assessed to check for fungal fruiting bodies, surface roots and possible damage to them, signs of root plate movement, and the condition of the soil or medium the tree is growing in.

Comments are recorded for any significant defects noted with management prescriptions made to remedy any such issues or specify further investigation which may take the form of a climbing inspection, soil testing or even decay detection by means of appropriate equipment.

The environment for each tree is also commented on where significant factors are noted such as livestock razing or ploughing which can be very detrimental to trees, or site hazards which can be significant to any required management such as adjacent structures, areas of public usage or utilities.

There is other data collected during other types of tree inspections such as a pre-development site tree surveys in keeping with British Standard 5837 - Trees in Relation to Construction however this type of survey will be discussed in a separate post.

The number of trees inspected within one working day is site specific however it is possible to inspect between 150-200 trees within an 8 hour period however you have to shift a bit!

Image Credit for Monkey Puzzle Images: The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh Lets Go Gardening and My Blue Muse

3 comments:

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