Recently, we had a couple of enquiries asking for a copy of this article. It reviews qualitative and quantitative approaches to tree risk assessment and looks at how we could do better.
It's over two years old now and was written at the time VALID was entering the home stretch. Though VALID has evolved further, much of the article is still relevant today.
This makes for an interesting tree risk assessment case study.
A TRAQ, QTRA, and VALID tree risk assessment were carried out on the same Pine trees in Western Springs, Auckland | NZ.
It involves around 200 Pinus radiata. From a risk of branch or tree failure perspective, the trees of particular interest are those that could fall onto a footpath or property.
The reports are linked.
TRAQ | August 2019
QTRA | December 2019
Random tree part or tree onto footpath
1/400,000 (Size Range 4)
1/500,000 (Size Range 3)
1/1,000,000 (Size Range 2)
<1/1,000,000 (Size Range1)
VALID | October 2020
We’ve got an all new Basic Tree Risk Assessment workshop!
Contact us to arrange training now.
This one day course will train your staff in how to recognise obvious tree risk features that need a closer look by an Arborist. If you’re a tree owner or manager with staff who spend a lot of time outside, this is the most cost-effective way for you to manage your tree risk.
We know duty holders prefer this training to Lantra’s ‘Basic Tree Survey and Inspection’ or ‘Highway Tree Inspection’ courses. You'll appreciate the value because the training is all about helping you fulfil your duty of care as a key part of your Tree Risk-Benefit Management Strategy.
*Basic Validators aren’t expected to survey or inspect trees. They’re able to carry out Passive Assessment (keeping an eye out for obvious tree risk features you can’t help but notice). Or, carry out an Active Assessment at a Basic level, where they’re looking for obvious tree risk features.
If you have a tree in your garden, all you need do is download this short Strategy and use a pdf editor to change the personal details. Then keep an eye out for obvious tree risk features (page 3) that you can’t help but notice in high-use areas. If you see any of these obvious tree risk features, get in touch with an Arborist who's been trained in tree risk assessment.
When you know what to keep an eye out for, trees with the highest risk are the easiest to spot. Most tree risk assessment isn’t so difficult.
Here, and in the other Strategies, Passive Assessment encourages citizen science risk assessment from those who are on the front line, enjoying the benefits that trees give us, day in day out.
This, and the other Strategies for Government and Landowner, can be downloaded from our Risk Management page.
Don't call 'high-use' zones, 'high-risk' zones.
This is from the new edition of the Arboricultural Association's ARB Magazine that's out this week. It can be downloaded here.
The high tree risk twilight zone
As we’re going through a hot spell in the UK at the moment, it’s time to release v4.0 of the Summer Branch Drop (SBD) Guide.
Those of you who are concerned about the risk from SBD, this should help reassure you. The overall risk from SBD is mind-bogglingly low. In this update, we have an easy to grasp explanation of what mind-bogglingly low means. The overall risk from SBD for a whole year is the equivalent of the few minutes it takes to cover about 2 miles (3km) on a drive.
200 miles (320km) drive = 1 micromort (a one in a million chance of death).
The overall risk from SBD is over one hundred times lower than this.
If you’re a duty holder, unless you’ve got a tree that’s a repeat offender, there’s no need to fanny around with confusing and ineffectual warning signs. Just download the SBD Guide from the Government section on the Risk Management page of the website.
Photo credit - Paul Barton
We recently came across a new concept called Friction. Friction is making things difficult when they could be done much easier. It’s the obstacles between what you want to do and doing it. Generally, friction is something you want to remove, and a great example of successful friction removal is Amazon. One of the reasons Amazon has been so successful is it’s taken a lot of the friction out of buying stuff. They’ve made shopping pretty much as effortless as it can be.
It made us realise that one of the things we’ve done with VALID is to remove friction from tree risk.
At the risk assessment level, the occupancy and consequence decisions in the App have little friction. The friction that comes with bafflegab (vague words) and numberwang (difficult maths) has been designed out. With a bit of training, occupancy and consequence decisions are pretty much effortless.
On the other hand, when you want assessors to be thoughtful about their decisions you add friction. In the App, you have to go through VALID letter-by-letter before you can make a likelihood of failure decision. This is adding friction where it’s important.
Whilst putting VALID together with the Risk Professor, and Bath University, I learned many lessons about risk modelling. One lesson learned was that I’m an Arborist. I mainly know about trees. There’s much I didn’t know about risk modelling. Okay, I did know risk matrices are fundamentally flawed and can’t sensibly rank risks. And you can’t apply mathematical rules to ordinal rankings. Though I was yet to find out how much I didn’t know, I was at least smart enough to realise some people knew much more than me.
Another important lesson learned was there’s too much uncertainty in tree risk to claim single figure value accuracy. It’s not credible to measure tree risk to such accuracy as 1/4, 1/300, 1/20 000, or 1/5 000 000. Nor can you realistically measure the difference between a 1/10 000 and a 1/50 000 risk. And you really shouldn’t be compounding the error by adjusting these very accurate risks by double or single figure multipliers like 0.25 or 2, 3, or 4.
With tree risk, we’re looking to measure something with high uncertainty, and our risk ratings should reflect that. With VALID there are only four tree risk ratings. None of them is a single figure value.
Here’s the first draft of a Drive-by Assessment that’s open for comments; which are very welcome.
The plan is to see how it evolves based on what State Roads (Tasmanian Government) come back with, and any additional comments. I’ll check with them to see whether they’re okay sharing their Traffic Management Plan. This is really important because the risk of assessing trees on a high-use road is much higher than the risk of branches or trees falling on a high-use road.
It can be adapted to meet your needs. By way of explanation for how this is set up. It’s part of the Government Tree Risk-Benefit Management Strategy. So, you’ll need to be familiar with that to understand the difference between Active Assessment & Passive Assessment. And the three levels of Active Assessment – Basic, Detailed, and Advanced.
Zones of high confluence = High use + mature trees
In VALID that’s 1400 or more vehicles a day. The speed limit doesn’t matter. For people, we’re looking at around 1200 per day. This translates to someone passing every minute or so between 7am – 7pm, Mon – Fri.
A Validator is someone who we’ve trained on the two day workshop. They can carry out a Detailed Assessment. You can replace this with Arborist and whatever accreditation they need.
Putting tree risk into perspective.
A neat and easy to understand relative risk came up in Tim Harford’s marvellous Cautionary Tales - The Spreadsheet of Life and Death. Driving for 200 miles (320km) has a risk of death of about one in a million (1 micromort).
We know the overall risk of death from branches or trees falling each year is less than one in a million (less than 1 micromort).
That means you’re exposing yourself to a higher risk of dying by travelling in a car on a 200 miles round trip to visit friends for the weekend, than you are being hit by a branch or tree over the whole of a year.
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