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January 11, 2022

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in court

Council prosecuted after member of the public killed by falling tree

Staffordshire County Council has been prosecuted for failing to inspect and maintain trees on a public footpath, following the death of a member of the public.

North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard how, on 3 October 2019, a man walking his dog on the Isabel Trail in Stafford was struck and killed by part of a falling oak tree.

The HSE’s investigation found that the tree, a multi-stemmed mature hybrid oak, approximately 12-14 metre high and with a crown radius of between seven and ten metres, had defects from which it was foreseeable that it was likely to fall and cause injury. The tree was located within the boundaries of the Isabel Trail.

Local authorities, including Staffordshire County Council, are legally required to suitably and sufficiently manage the risks and hazards posed by the trees within their responsibility remit.  Staffordshire County Council had a programme of proactive inspection and maintenance across the county, but the Isabel Trail had been omitted for many years.

Staffordshire County Council of 1 Staffordshire Place, Stafford pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,164.90 and a victim surcharge £181.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lyn Mizen said: “This tragic incident could have been averted if the required periodic tree safety inspections, as per the Staffordshire County Council’s own Code of Practice, had been carried out. Local Authorities need to ensure they have suitable inspection systems in place, including monitoring and audit provisions, to guard against situations such as this, and to ensure they have enough suitably trained and competent tree inspectors to enable compliance with their tree management policies and codes of practice.”

Louise Hosking and Jimmy Quinn on IOSH Presidency

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, IOSH President, Louise Hosking, and Immediate Past President, Jimmy Quinn, discuss overcoming the challenges of the last 12 months and look ahead to what’s in store for 2022. The conversation points include, equality, diversity and inclusion, mental health and support for veterans and the armed forces.

Click here to listen to this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast.

Louise Hosking IOSH president

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