Tree Surgeons are responsible for a variety of tasks that may include planting, felling, shaping, removing dead wood, pruning, tree surveys and hedging.
A good tree surgeon will possess a number of skills including, climbing, confidently operating & maintaining various power tools often at height, managing health & safety, maintenance and good planning.
It’s a dangerous job that requires the highest professionalism, skill and ensuring that each task is carried out in the safest possible way for themselves, their colleagues and the clients they’re working for.
It’s therefore critically important that you choose a competent company or person for the job and avoid the rogue traders.
If you do the right kind of research and ask the correct questions you can avoid the many pitfalls and disasters that can arise, from getting it wrong.
Tree Surgeon at Work
1. ARE YOU A QUALIFIED TREE SURGEON?
Avoid Rogue Traders!
If someone knocks on your door offering to do tree work for you this is often not ideal, once you let them in you could be subject to:
· High pressure tactics to get a quick decision without a cooling off period
· Agreeing work to be done on that same day
· All the money may have to be paid upfront
· It has to be cash payments only
You need to ensure that your potential tree surgeon is qualified to do the job or is a member of a relevant trade association, so don’t be afraid to ask the questions.
Minimum requirements, should be qualified to NPTC standards, this stands for the National Proficiency Tests Council
This is one of the most widely recognized training schemes for tree work and the tree surgeon would have passed a series of rigorous assessments. It’s a City & Guilds certificate of competence, in the land based sector.
Tree Surgeons with this qualification make it easier for you, as they should carry an ID card.
Other qualifications include CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) CHAS (The Contractors Health & Safety Assessment Scheme) & The Arboricultural Association
2. DO YOU HAVE ADEQUATE INSURANCE?
Companies will often say that they are insured but bear in mind there may be multiple aspects to consider.
· Are they actually insured at all? – Ask to see their insurance documents
· If a job goes wrong, i.e. accidents or damage to your property and the company you’ve hired has no insurance or inadequate insurance this could leave you with major problems
· If tree surgeons employ staff then it’s a legal requirement that they have Employer’s Liability Insurance.
· Public and Products Liability Insurance cover liability to 3rd parties for injury and damage to property as a result of negligence, at least £5,000,000
Warning signs for the public
3. DO YOU WORK IN A SAFE AND SECURE WAY?
· All equipment used should be fit for purpose and well maintained to minimise the possibility of accidents
· The team that turns up to carry out the work should also be wearing the correct PPE, including helmets, appropriate safety clothing, gloves, boots and harnesses.
· Again don’t be afraid to ask a company how they intend to carry out a particular job and the safeguards they intend to put in place.
If the tree work is very near to a road for instance, a road sign to warn the public would be required or the site may need to be cordoned off with cones.
4. WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE?
· You need to find out how many years’ experience a tree surgeon has?
· Do they have plenty of experience in dealing with the particular tree issues that you want resolving?
· Ask them to provide examples of their work, to show you their portfolio of work or see their customer testimonials
Can they identify the exact type of tree that you want them to deal with, as this often gives a very good indication of whether they are up to the job or not.
5. ARE YOU AWARE OF LEGAL OBLIGATIONS?
They need to be aware of various statutory and legal obligations which would enable them to ask the right questions.
Legislation regarding the bird nesting and breeding season stipulates non-urgent tree removal or reduction shouldn’t be carried out between March & July. This can often be up to September if weather conditions are milder.
Are your trees protected by a tree preservation order or is your property within a conservation area?
With either situation you need to inform the tree surgeon, right from the start because no work can start unless permission has been gained from the local planning authority (LPA).
When the tree surgeons have gone, you don’t want to be left with a nightmare scenario that would cost you money, put you in trouble legally or cause soaring stress levels because of misunderstandings or them not doing their job properly.
6. DO YOU FOLLOW A CODE OF CONDUCT?
NPTC, CSCS, CHAS & the Arboricultural Association
· If you hire a professional tree surgeon and they are members of the above organisations then you’ll have greater protection because all their members would have adequate training and skills to do the job or have to follow a code of conduct
· If they are also members of a 3rd party consumer friendly organisation, like Derbyshire Trusted Trader, you’ll have even greater consumer protection
This is because businesses are thoroughly vetted by Derbyshire Trading Standards to ensure that:
· They can deliver quality services to local people at a fair price
· Agree to provide good customer service
· Older and vulnerable adults are fully protected by using this service
· This means Rogue traders can now be given the red card. They tend to cold call, get their foot in the door & not leave until you’ve been pressured to give in, insist the job has to be done on the day and demand money up front.
In the case of Derbyshire Trusted Trader there’s also a built in complaints resolution and mediation service.
7. ARE YOU PROFESSIONAL & DO YOU WORK TIDILY?
Professional Tree surgeons have the following responsibilities:
· Listen to the exact requirements of what a client wants
· Answer any questions
· Address any concerns
· Offer advice and guidance
· Negotiate a complete agreement between themselves and the client on what needs to be done, the price and timescales. Crucially this needs to be done before any work takes place
· Tidy the site where the particular tree surgeon services took place
· Take all waste away from the client’s home or business
8. ARE YOU A MEMBER OF A 3rd PARTY CONSUMER FRIENDLY ORGANISATION THAT CAN VERIFY YOUR WORK?
This is an incredibly useful indicator of a particular company’s track record and whether they can be trusted. This is because the information that you have access to has been provided by a third party organisation who would have stipulated certain terms and conditions for initial and on-going membership.
For instance The Trusted Trader scheme is run by Derbyshire Trading Standards and they operate a clear customer charter for the benefit of all customers. There are other similar schemes that operate to protect consumers.
Their listing would tell you the following:
· The name of the company
· Full contact & address details, to confirm that they are a bona fide company
· The services they offer
· A company profile that you can scrutinise
· Customer Reviews
· An example of a typical local listing is available to view
9. IS THE PRICING CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT?
This is can be quite a difficult judgement but look at the whole package being offered and base your decision on the following:
· Are all your requirements being met in full?
· Are there extra charges for travel expenses or any other sneaky charges?
· Have all or most of the questions raised in this guide been answered to your satisfaction?
If the price seems almost too good to be true or considerably lower compared to other price enquiries, you need to ask yourself if corners are being cut regarding, safety, insurance or quality of equipment.
Be very suspicious of companies or individuals that ask you for all the money upfront.
The more acceptable way to conduct business is to ask for a deposit then the balance on completion of the work.
10. WHAT ARE YOUR PAYMENT OPTIONS?
It’s important that customers are aware of what the available payment options are and whether there are any penalties for making payments in a certain way.
These options would normally include: cash, cheque, bank transfer, debit Card, credit Card & PayPal
11. CAN I TRUST YOUR ADVICE?
If you follow this guide and trust your instincts you’ll be able to answer this question fairly easily but if you have doubts, take a step back & consult more widely with alternative traders or seek professional advice.
If you firmly believe that you’ve made the right choice then listen to the advice given but again if doubts creep in at any stage, seek a 2nd or 3rd opinion.
Sometimes what the customer wants or may suggest may be counterproductive to a trees short term or long term health.
This is where sound advice that carefully explains the benefits or potential problems of one action or another is invaluable, as it could save you money or further hassle further down the line.
12. ARE YOU LOCAL?
· This is an important consideration because local companies tend to know far more about the local area and if they were brought up in that area they are more likely to do right by you
· It also means that money remains in the local economy
After reading this guide I hope it gave you a better understanding of why you need to choose the right tree surgeon carefully and not someone who makes out they can save you some money but in fact is setting you up for a mighty fall.
You need to be especially careful if you’re an older or vulnerable adult.
By following our guide this will help to arm you with useful additional knowledge so you can select a tree surgeon wisely and minimise the risk of damage to your trees, property, people in the area and stay within the law.
I would certainly appreciate any feedback and I hope everyone finds this guide useful.
If you would like to share any previous experiences you’ve had with tree surgeons then let us know in our comments section at the end of this post.
Construction Skills Certification Scheme
The Contractors Health & Safety Assessment Scheme
Author: Keith Edkins
Title: Tree Surgeon at Work
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Title: Tree Trimming
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Title: Derbyshire Map
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Title: Willow Tree
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Definition & Pronunciation Resource
Cambridge Dictionaries Online
Glossary of Terms
A Conservation Area is an area of historical or notable environmental interest and has the protection of the law, from changes not in keeping with the area.
PPE means personal protective equipment
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is made by a Local Planning Authority to protect specific trees, areas or designated woodland from damage or destruction.