Is my tree safe?
October 20, 2023

Assessing Tree Safety: Ensuring Public Well-Being


Trees are a vital part of our natural environment, offering beauty, shade, and even improved air quality. However, many often wonder “is my tree safe?”.

As a responsible tree consultancy, we understand the importance of assessing whether a tree is safe to the public. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the key factors and methods for evaluating tree safety to protect both people and property.


The Importance of Tree Safety Assessment


Why is it crucial to assess tree safety, you may wonder? Well, trees have the potential to become hazardous under various circumstances. Whether it’s due to diseases, decay, storm damage, or improper maintenance, an unsafe tree can lead to property damage, injuries, or even fatalities. To prevent such unfortunate incidents, regular tree safety assessments are imperative.


Visual Inspection


One of the most common and effective methods to determine tree safety is through visual inspection. However, this is not a one-time check, but rather an ongoing process that should be conducted regularly. Here are some key aspects to consider during a visual inspection:

  • Overall Tree HealthExamine the tree’s general appearance. Look for signs of declining health, such as wilting or discolored leaves, dieback in the canopy, or excessive deadwood. Unhealthy trees are more likely to become unstable and pose safety risks.
  • Trunk InspectionInspect the trunk for any visible wounds, cracks, or cavities. These issues can weaken the tree’s structural integrity, making it susceptible to falling or breaking in high winds or storms.
  • Branch AssessmentCheck the branches for signs of decay, cracks, or dead branches. Weak or dead branches can break off unexpectedly, posing a danger to anyone nearby.
  • Root ExaminationAlthough roots are underground and not easily visible, signs of root problems may manifest above ground. Look for soil heaving, visible root decay, or leaning of the tree, which could indicate root issues.


Advanced Assessment Techniques


While visual inspection is a valuable tool, some situations may require more advanced assessment techniques to thoroughly evaluate tree safety. These methods often involve specialized equipment and expertise:

  • Resistograph TestingResistograph testing is a non-invasive method that measures a tree’s internal wood density. It helps identify decay and internal defects within the tree. By assessing the resistance of the drill bit as it penetrates the wood, arborists can determine the health of the tree’s internal structure.
  • Sonic TomographySonic tomography uses sound waves to create a visual map of a tree’s internal structure. This technique is particularly useful for identifying cavities, decay, or weak points within the trunk and branches.
  • Soil TestingThe condition of the soil surrounding a tree plays a significant role in its stability. Soil testing can determine whether the tree’s root system is adequately anchored and receiving sufficient nutrients and moisture.
  • Aerial InspectionsIn some cases, it may be necessary to conduct aerial inspections using drones or other equipment. This allows arborists to assess hard-to-reach areas of the tree, such as the canopy, for signs of stress, damage, or disease.


Consulting an Arborist


While property owners may perform initial visual inspections, it’s highly recommended to consult a certified arborist for a more in-depth assessment. Arborists are trained professionals with expertise in tree health and safety. They can provide valuable insights into the tree’s condition and recommend appropriate actions to ensure public safety.


Signs of an Unsafe Tree

Now that we’ve discussed assessment methods, let’s explore some common signs that indicate a tree may be unsafe to the public:


  • LeaningIf a tree is leaning significantly, especially after a storm, it may be at risk of falling over. This poses an immediate danger to nearby structures and individuals.
  • Excessive DeadwoodDead branches hanging in the canopy or scattered around the tree’s base can fall unexpectedly, potentially causing harm to people or property.
  • Visible DecayDecay can weaken a tree’s structure, making it more susceptible to failure. Signs of decay may include conks (shelf-like fungi) growing on the trunk or visible cavities.
  • Cracks and SplitsVisible cracks or splits in the trunk or major branches can indicate structural weakness. These areas are prone to failure during adverse weather conditions.
  • Poor Root HealthTrees with compromised root systems may show signs of instability, such as soil heaving, leaning, or a noticeable reduction in canopy density.


Taking Action for Tree Safety


Once an assessment determines that a tree poses a safety risk to the public, it’s essential to take appropriate action. Here are some common measures:


  • Pruning and TrimmingRegular pruning and trimming can remove dead or weakened branches, reducing the risk of falling debris. Proper pruning techniques help maintain the tree’s health and structure.
  • Cabling and BracingIn some cases, a tree can be supported with cables and braces to prevent structural failure. This technique is often used to preserve valuable or historic trees.
  • Tree RemovalWhen a tree is beyond recovery or poses an immediate threat, it may need to be removed. Tree removal should only be performed by trained professionals to ensure safety.
  • Soil ManagementImproving soil health and addressing soil compaction can benefit the tree’s root system, enhancing its stability and overall health.



Ensuring tree safety is a shared responsibility that involves property owners, certified QTRA arborists, and communities as a whole. By regularly assessing the health and condition of trees, we can mitigate potential risks and preserve the beauty and benefits they bring to our environment. Remember that when it comes to tree safety, prevention and proactive management are key to protecting the well-being of the public and our natural surroundings.