Camper dies after being hit by falling tree branch

WorkSafe is issuing an alert to holiday camping and caravan park owners to control the risk of falling trees and branches.
Safety alert published

Friday 26 Mar 2021

Industries and topics
  • Agriculture
  • Sport and recreation

Background

A camper at a holiday park died when a branch fell on his tent. The man had set up camp in his allocated camping spot, locating his tent under a tree canopy. A large branch fell on his tent in the night as he was sleeping.

Safety issues

All trees pose some level of risk of falling branches or trunks. Large trees with high potential to fall or drop heavy branches in populated areas pose the highest level of risk.

Signs to deter people from camping under potentially dangerous trees should not be relied upon as the only means of reducing the risks associated with falling trees or branches.

Recommended ways to control risks

A system of work for inspecting all trees and branches at workplaces should incorporate both periodic inspections by a qualified arborist (consider every 1-3 years depending on the level of risk) and regular inspections by a designated person at the workplace. The frequency of regular inspections should be as recommended by an arborist and after any severe wind event, such as storms.

Inspections undertaken by a designated person at the workplace, in-between the periodic arborist inspections, will increase the likelihood that obvious risks, which may lead to a tree falling or branch dropping, will be identified and safely rectified.

In developing a system of work employers and self-employed persons should consult with an arborist on the following matters:

  • the areas of the workplace that should be inspected by the designated person at the workplace
  • frequency of inspections to be carried out by the workplace
  • what risk features the workplace should be look for during their own inspections
  • what identified risk features should be escalated to an arborist for a detailed assessment
  • the type of inspections the workplace should conduct following a severe weather event

An arborist should also be engaged to provide advice on what information, instruction and training should be provided to those in the workplace who are responsible for completing the inspections.

Employers and self-employed persons should:

  • develop a tree inspection checklist (in consultation with an arborist) to be used by employees assigned the task of tree and branch inspections
  • provide employees with guidance material on tree and branch inspections
  • engage an arborist to provide basic tree inspection training for the employees who are assigned with inspection tasks
  • appoint someone to monitor weather forecasts
  • where an inspection has identified an unacceptable level of risk, exclude camping and other activities in the fall zone of tree or branch until the risk is addressed

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must:

  • so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's undertaking

In addition, self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the self-employed person's undertaking.

Further information

Contact your local council for information on tree management systems which may include advice that is specific to your regional conditions.