How to Select an Arborist
The tree work season is ramping up, and the phone calls are starting to roll in, which got me thinking about the process potential customers use to select an arborist. I ask my customers, and often the answer seems to be because of an online presence or online reviews. I thought I would take a few minutes and describe what an arborist would look for when selecting an arborist.
- Knowledge of the local conditions, species, and care practices
- Knowledge of the industry as a whole and locally
- Best practices in practice – not just theory
- Safety – can’t be overlooked given the inherent dangers of tree work
- A thorough understanding of applicable laws, rules standards, best practices
Proper tree care techniques, and practices are science-based and require knowledge in several key areas such as:
- Tree Biology
- Urban ecology
- Basic chemistry
Current best practices in the tree care industry has evolved significantly in the last couple of decades including safety standards. Relevant education focuses on:
- Tools and equipment training
- Arboriculture techniques and standards training – ANSI A300
- Safety Education/training ANSI Z133, OHS
Certification does not equate to qualification; however, it goes a long way in demonstrating a commitment to self-improvement and continuous learning. Some industry-recognized certifications are:
- International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist, which requires three years of validated/vetted work experience and a rigorous exam with a high failure rate. There is a continuing education requirement once certified.
- ISA has other more specialized and advanced certifications that are strong indicators
- Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA)
- American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA)
- Safety Certifications such as Alberta Construction Association Certificate of Recognition (COR), First Aid
Tree work and Arboriculture, in general, is a very specialized industry and insurance companies know the risks involved. Insurance companies also offer insurance products geared specifically for tree care and arboriculture. Reputable companies will have the following insurance at a minimum:
- Liability Insurance – The policy must be specific to tree care and arboriculture. General contractor’s insurance does not likely cover tree care work. Ask for an insurance certificate as proof – the certificate will state exactly what is covered, policy limitations, including coverage amounts.
- WCB – This is as important as liability insurance – if the company selected does not have proper WCB coverage, then the WCB burden falls to the land-owners policy and potentially to the landowner. Ask for a WCB clearance letter (which can be obtained independently), and be sure that the letter states that there is employee coverage. If it states no employee coverage, the landowner is on the hook for the employees if they get injured.
- Quoting process – at a minimum, the quote should be specific and detail the following:
- Which trees will be pruned
- Clearly defined pruning objectives such as:
- Prune for clearance to buildings, other trees
- Prune for shape and size reduction
- Prune for structure and health
- Prune to remove dead, diseased, damaged/defective branches
- Will pruning methods identified meet the objectives (clearance, raising, thinning, structural, etc.)
- Location in the crown where the pruning will be performed
- Minimum and maximum branch or stem size to be removed
- Statement regarding next pruning cycle
- In many cases identified pruning objectives cannot be accomplished in 1 pruning dose
- A second pruning is often advisable as this prevents trees from being over pruned
- Licensing requirement – there isn’t a license in AB for Arborists – so when some say they are licensed – ask them what that means…?
An online presence today is an omnipresent requirement. It is fantastic as it allows us to see a constant stream of images of what companies are up to. It also provides a deeper look into the practices and motivations of a company:
- Beware of lots of glory shots of large tree removals
- Some companies are in it for the thrills and kills
- Safety practices good and bad are on display – things to look for:
- The good –
- PPE such as helmets, hearing protection, eye protection gloves, steel toed boots and chainsaw pants (at a minimum are being used)
- PPE and equipment is in good repair
- What is being done seems reasonable in the broad scheme of things – some of the techniques we use may seem daunting but safety and control of the operation should be apparent
- The Bad –
- PPE is missing such as helmets, hearing protection, eye protection, gloves, chainsaw pants, steel toed boots
- Equipment including PPE looks ‘ratty’ and generally beyond its effective
- Poor practices are evident such as: one handed chainsaw use, two points of attachment in tree not being used, absence of traffic cones on street
- Images or videos of tree topping, or arborists wearing spurs to prune trees
- The good –
Questions to ASK
- Are you insured and can you provide me with an insurance certificate?
- Are you WCB insured – can you send me a clearance letter?
- Are you Certified?
- Where did you learn about arboriculture?
- What is the last book about arboriculture, trees, or urban forestry you have read?
- Ask about licensing – remember licensing for arborists in Alberta does not exist (Note: This varies with jurisdiction, so YMMV). If a company states they are licensed, they may be referring to a driver’s license 😉
What to be AWARE of
- Companies that advertise that they top trees
- Companies that push for tree removal and especially if they use wording such as danger/hazard removal (scare tactics)
- Companies that advertise or state that they are the ‘cheapest’ in town or will ‘beat any price’
Remember – “It is a jungle out there” – if you have any questions about selecting an arborist – contact us, and if you have any comments, please leave them below.
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