HSE Guidelines

This page is a very detailed look at the HSE guidelines and how they can be followed using OTISS and good tree managment practice. All the quotes below are taken from the HSE “Management of the risk from falling trees” circular from the HSE website.

Paragraph 10: i. An overall assessment of risks from trees, particularly identifying groups of trees by their position and degree of public access. This will enable the risks assosciated with tree stocks to be prioritised, and help identify any checks or inspections needed. As a minimum, trees should be divided into zones: one zone where there is frequent public access to trees (e.g. in and around picnic areas, schools, children’s playgrounds, popular foot paths, car parks, or at the side of busy roads); and a second zone where trees are not subject to frequent public access. As a rough guide ‘trees subject to frequent public access’ are those that are closely approached by many people every day. Maps may be useful here as individual records for individual trees are unlikely to be necessary if zones and the trees in the zones are clearly defined.

  • OTISS lets the estate manager divide their trees into separate zones. Each zone is allocated a Risk Category of high, medium or low. The high Risk category is recommended for ‘where there is frequent public access to trees’ (e.g. in and around picnic areas, schools, children’s playgrounds, popular foot paths, car parks, or at the side of busy roads).
  • The positions of the trees are shown on online and estate maps uploaded by the user.


Paragraph 10: ii. For trees in a frequently visited zone, a system for periodic, proactive checks is appropriate. This should involve a quick visual check for obvious signs that a tree is likely to be unstable and be carried out by a person with a working knowledge of trees and their defects, but who need not be an arboricultural specialist. Informing staff who work in parks or highways as to what to look for would normally suffice. Duty holders should ensure that any system that is put in place for managing tree safety is properly applied and monitored.

  • OTISS enables the estate manager to plan forthcoming inspection cycles on each zone. The manager appoints a member of staff or an independent arboricultural consultant to carry out the survey.


Paragraph 10: iii. A short record of when an area or zone or occasionally an individual tree has been checked or inspected with details of any defects found and action taken.

  • Each OTISS survey records the date, the assigned users and describes the scope and results of the inspections (e.g. “visually checked all trees in zone – no defects found”). Staff and arboricultural consultants update the inspection results directly into OTISS or via the mobile survey applications. OTISS works with a wide range of mobile phones, tablets, laptops and PCs to record the survey results.
  • Not all the inspected trees will need to have their records updated. Individual trees can be updated to record defects and recommended actions. These are noted as part of the survey – and a complete report of the survey can be generated.
  • When the survey is complete, a Work Schedule can be created to view all the recommended actions.
  • In OTISS, a separate work-completed survey is created to record the actions taken and the resulting condition of the trees. This survey’s description explains the work carried out, and individual tree records can also be updated – it also records the dates when the work was carried out.
  • Survey’s can be set to a ‘Locked‘ state. In this state no further alterations can ever be made to the arboricultural consultant’s data. This survey then forms part of the unalterable, audit trail of the landowner’s legal ‘duty of care’ for the estate, but also protects the consultant’s findings and recommendations.
  • In this way, OTISS maintains an audit trail of all surveys, individual tree inspections and maintenance work.


Paragraph 10: iv. A system for obtaining specialist assistance / remedial action when a check reveals defects outwith the experience and knowledge of the person carrying out the check.

  • The individual tree inspection form allows the user to recommend that further detailed inspections are required. These recommendations appear in the Work Schedule.


Paragraph 10: v. A system to enable people to report damage to trees, such as vehicle collisions, and to trigger checks following potentially damaging activities such as work by the utilities in the vicinity of trees or severe gales.

  • OTISS makes it easy for staff to report a defect or to flag a tree as ‘need to investigate’. Staff can access OTISS from their mobile phones, and from office and home based PCs.
  • The estate maps loaded into OTISS can show utilities (electricity, water, gas, etc), buildings and outdoor furniture.


Paragraph 10: vi. Occasionally a duty holder may have responsibility for trees that have serious structural faults but which they decide to retain. Where such a condition is suspected and the tree also poses a potentially serious risk because, for example its proximity to an area of high public use, a specific assessment for that tree and specific management measures, are likely to be appropriate.

  • OTISS surveys and individual tree inspection records allow a wide range of details and recommendations to be recorded. The audit trail will show the dates, user names and full details of each inspection and of all work carried out.


Paragraph 10: vii. Once a tree has been identified by a check to have a structural fault that presents an elevated risk, action should be planned and taken to manage the risk. Any arboricultural work required should be carried out by a competent arboriculturist, as such work tends to present a relatively high risk to the workers involved. Duty holders should not be encouraged to fell or prune trees unnecessarily.

  • In OTISS, a separate work-completed survey is created to record the actions taken and the resulting condition of the trees. The survey description explains the work carried out, and individual tree records can also be updated. Consultants and contractors can be authorised to update the actions online, directly into OTISS.


Paragraph 10: viii. Inspection of individual trees will only be necessary where a tree is in, or adjacent to, an area of high public use, has structural faults that are likely to make it unstable and a decision has been made to retain the tree with these faults.

  • OTISS clearly identifies the trees in the high risk category zones. The estate manager can plan a rolling programme of inspection cycles for these zones. A less frequent schedule of inspections can be planned for the lower risk zones. In each case, the survey results and the individual tree inspections are all recorded.


Paragraph 10: ix. Monitoring to ensure that the arrangements are implemented in practice.

  • Future versions of OTISS are planned to provided reminders (e.g. emails) to the estate managers so that planned surveys are carried out and work items are addressed.