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Shine Lawyers | Cutting down a tree

Tree hazards at your home


Beautifying the yard on weekends is a favourite pastime of many Australians. Whether you’re tending to your lawns, doing a bit of gardening or carrying out some major landscaping, there are safety measures you can take to ensure all-round safety. Trees are great for shade and create a privacy barrier between neighbours, but what happens when trees go wild and need to be pruned or cut down? How can you minimise risk of injury when cutting down old trees or maintaining overgrown ones?

Why are trees a hazard around homes?

When trees become overgrown, they can pose a significant fire risk where branches are close to power lines, homes or fences. The combination can be deadly, or at the very least, can cause significant damage to your property, your neighbour's property or the general public. Fallen trees and the lack of attention to damaged tress is a public liability risk and can lead to property damage, serious injury and even death.

Where does tree ownership and maintenance sit?

The owner of the land where the tree is situated is responsible for proper tree care and maintenance. Before you go ahead and prune or cut down trees, you should check with your local council to see if your area has any tree preservation laws, as each state varies significantly. If there is a tree preservation law in place, it could mean you can’t touch the offending tree until there has been an independent assessment of it.

Once you have established that the tree can be pruned or cut down, you should then consider how to prepare for the job in the safest way.

Top tips for cutting down trees around your yard

  • Wear the right safety gear: ear and hand protection, and safety glasses to avoid unnecessary injury.
  • Use well maintained equipment: ensure you use your equipment in the correct manner it is designed for.
  • Know where the tree will fall: do some quick calculations and work out if the tree is safe to cut down and won’t fall on anything or anyone.
  • Correctly dispose of the tree and gardening litter: ensure you dispose of the tree or other garden waste and don’t leave any hazards for someone to trip or hurt themselves on.

Dangers of doing it yourself

Working with trees in and around your yard can pose some safety issues for all involved. The most common types of injuries you may encounter include:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Sprains and injuries from manually lifting and holding machinery
  • Amputations: including the risk of cutting off fingers, hands, and parts of your arm is extremely high when using heavy equipment and power tools.
  • Punctures and cuts from branches
  • Falling objects like branches whilst cutting down trees
  • Bites and stings: many animals and stinging insects make their homes in trees
  • Eye injuries: sawdust and wood chips scattering through the air can easily find their way into unprotected eyes and cause abrasions to the cornea as well as cuts and scratches to the eye.

Tree removal can be a big job, so it may be worth employing an expert.

Duty of care

A tree owner can also be liable for the injuries the fallen or damaged tree has caused the others.

If a private property owner fails to correctly maintain their trees within their properties, (whether inside or outside the boundaries of their fences) they have failed their duty of care and could be liable for any injuries suffered by neighbours, visitors and others.

Shine Lawyers - Your local legal experts

If you or a loved one has sustained an injury due to someone's negligence, you may have a claim for compensation. One of our Public Liabitly claims experts can assess your case, inform you of all your available options. Get in touch today for more information on how Shine Lawyers can right wrong.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: November 27, 2019.

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