Price plays an important role but whilst nobody should be paying 'over the odds' the price should not be the only factor considered. There is a famous saying in the arboriculture industry that anyone can pick up a chainsaw but it doesn't make them a tree surgeon. So called 'tree surgeons' can often undercut reputable companies who work hard to build up a business whilst ensuring that all of their staff are kept safe in a dangerous industry, simply because they do not have the same important overheads such as insurances, qualifications, personal protective equipment (PPE), a legitimate means of disposing of the green waste etc.
Here are some pointers which should help you decide which tree surgeons to employ and to weed out the rogue ones;
- Can the tree surgeons prove they are qualified to do the work. Tree surgery requires an extremely high level of technical competence and tree surgeons should have National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) qualifications or Lantra Awards for all the work they are carrying out. This means a separate qualification for operations such as felling, cross cutting the timber, climbing, climbing with a chainsaw, using the chipper, using a stump grinder. The list is really quite extensive. Ask any tree surgeon you get to quote for the work whether they can prove their relevant qualifications.
- Are they insured? Tree surgery is a highly dangerous activity and things can go wrong. Tree surgery companies should be able to show you copies of their public liability and employers liability insurances. The public liability insurance needs to be for at least £2 million (at least £10 million if working on or adjacent to a public highway). The tree surgeons would also need professional indemnity insurance if they are providing advice or recommendations. The should also have LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) certificates (6 monthly for climbing equipment and 12 monthly for rigging equipment) as these are required by law and without them their insurance is likely to be null and void.
- Do they look the part? Tree surgeons should by law wear personal protective equipment which include chainsaw trousers, boots, helmet and should also use a rope and harness when climbing. If they turn up to carry out work in jeans and trainers and plan to cut the tree down using only an extension ladder, are they the professional outfit you want working on your property?
- Tree surgeons should also be working to an industry standard. It is known as the British Standard and its official title is BS3998:2010 'Tree Work; Recommendations'. Ask the tree surgeon about this standard. The chances are if they haven't heard of it, they are not up to the standard required!
- What checks do they do on the tree before carrying out the work? All trees should be checked to see if they are covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), are within a Conservation Area or covered by any planning conditions. Failure to do so before carrying out work on trees can result in an unlimited fine for the contractor AND the owner.
- Are they trustworthy? Check them out before agreeing to the work. Do they have a website or social media accounts displaying their work, have they carried out other work locally, can they provide references. Can they confirm how they dispose of their green waste and do they have a waste carriers license (required by law). If they can't answer these questions, how do you know that they are not dumping all of the arisings on their way home?!
- Are they providing you with a quote or an estimate? Does it clearly state whether VAT is inclusive or not? Does the quote include the removal of the waste and will the site be left relatively neat and tidy? These are all important questions to allow a client to be sure what they are paying for and to be able to compare quotations.
Here at AG Tree Services Ltd we try to put any potential customers minds at rest from the outset. Our quotations are always provided in written format, are detailed and are accompanied with details of relative information such as our insurances, our waste carriers license, our SMAS Health and Safety Accreditation, our website address, our company and VAT registration numbers and our registered company address.
We check all trees with the local authority for TPOs, Conservation Areas or planning conditions before carrying out any work and if a planning application or S211 Notice (for Conservation Areas) is required, we take on this responsibility and it is included in the price we quote.
We are also members of checkatrade which has numerous reviews, photographs and feedback of work we have carried out. We display our work on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) as we are proud of the work we carry out and are more than happy to show others.
We never ask for money up front but have payment terms which are stated in our quotation. We invoice after the work is completed and what we quote is what we charge unless the job specification has been changed and the different price agreed with the client.
Spending 10 or 15 minutes researching the tree surgery company you intend to use may help you avoid have sub-standard tree work carried out or worse still being conned by rogues posing as 'tree surgeons'.