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Choosing your Tree Surgeon

How to identify a tree professional with all the things to look out for when choosing who to use

Choosing your Tree Surgeon

Good Climbing Practice

Good Climbing Practice

Bad Climbing Practice

Bad Climbing Practice

If tree work is not done properly it could lead to:

  • INJURY to people*
  • DAMAGE to property*
  • SERIOUS HARM to your trees that have taken many years to grow…

All through ill-advised and badly executed tree work.

*Potentially you may be liable is a 3rd party is affected.

Questions you should ask an arborist

Stage 1
Ask for a quote**

(a reputable arborist will always give a positive response)

  1. Are you insured?
    If YES. please show evidence of insurance – Employers’ Liability & Public Liability (recommended minimum of £5 million).
  2. Do you work to a British Standard?
    If YES, which one?
    Should be BS3998: 2010 ‘Tree Work – Recommendations’.
  3. What qualifications do you and your staff hold? (ask to see copies)
    Compulsory: MIUST have NPTC/Lantra Awards*** certificates for chainsaw use.
    Recommended: Certificates for other skills and machines. Arboricultural knowledge e.g. National Certificates and Diplomas in Arboriculture.
  4. Will you provide a written quotation?
    If NO, reject the contractor.
  5. Are you a member of a professional organisation?
    Membership does not guarantee work standards but does show a degree of commitment.
  6. Can you provide me with the phone number of a referee who can show me some of your work?
    If YES, follow up the reference.

**Obtain more than one quote, ideally 3.

***NPTC and Lantra Awards are national organisations that assess competence of people using chainsaws and other arboricultural equipment. Competent arborists will be able to show you an A4 sized certificate or plastic ID card if requested.

Tree work operations (arboriculture) require a high degree of technical competence, supported by training and experience. For these reasons tree work should only be undertaken by well-trained, competent arborists experience at the type of work being undertaken, e.g. tree pruning/tree removal.

Stage 2
Choosing the quote that suits you

When you receive your quotations check they include the following before deciding which one to accept:

  • Reference to BS3998: 2010 ‘Tree Work – Recommendations’
  • Clear and full details of the work to be undertaken (the specification).
  • What will happen to the timber and brushwood?
  • What will happen with the tree stumps?
  • Whether VAT is included.
  • Who will be responsible for obtaining permission if the trees are protected?
  • What steps will be taken to protect you and your property (the risk assessment)?

Be aware that there may be a limited quote validity period.

Stage 3: Consumer protection

If problems arise you can get help and advice from industry bodies such as the Arboricultural Association, International Society of Arboriculture or TrustMark.

Competent arborists

In the UK there are two recognised schemes certifying the competence of arborists through examination and regular re-assessment or Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

The ARB Approved Contractor Shield

The Arboricultural Association (AA) maintains an online Directory of quality assured tree surgery businesses. they are regularly assessed for their health and safety procedures, office and business practices, including customer care, as well as their quality of tree work. they will display the AA ARB Approved Contractor logo.

Check whether the contractor’s approval is current on the Arboricultural Association website via the ‘Find a Tree Surgeon’ link.

ISA Certified Arborist

Individual arborists may be certified by the International Society or Arboriculture (ISA). The ISA assesses the individual for their knowledge and ability. Certified arborists will display the ISA Certified Arborist logo.

Please check with the Society that the arborist’s approval is current, throught the ISA website www.isa-arbor.com/.

Other arborists may be equally competent. If they do not subscribe to either of the above schemes you should take more care to follow up the advice contained in Stage 1 & 2 above.


There is no shortage of people and companies offering tree work services, but how do you choose between them? The Health and Safety Executive says,

clients engaging contractors to undertake tree work need to carefully check they have the necessary skill and competence. Tree work is hazardous; to be done safely it requires properly trained and experienced people… Arboricultural trade associations can supply details of approved contractors and information to help you choose a competent tree work contractor…

It is equally important that advice given in respect to trees is correct and from reliable professionals. People and companies in this directory have satisfied the Arboricultural Association that they are competent to provide the consultancy and contractor services as described.

Recognising an ARB Approved Contractor

A great way to recognise a competent Tree Surgeon is to look out for the ARB Approved Contractor Shield. The shield is relatively new and chances are your local Tress Surgeon may still be displaying the old logo. Indeed, just because you see the old logo it does not mean they are not approved, just go to our directory page to check out a Tree Surgeon to give you peace-of-mind. We only show Tree Surgeons who have been approved and who have been assessed.

The ARB Approved Contractor Shield

People at risk:

Number 1No head injury protection (helmet)

Number 2No eyesight protection

Number 3No hearing protection

Number 4No fall protection (platform, rope and harness etc.)

Number 5No cut protection (chainsaw resistant trousers and boots)


Number 6No head injury protection (helmet)

Number 7No protection from traffic (high visibility clothing, road signing and traffic management)

Other people

Number 8Pedestrians and residents at risk of being hit by timber

Number 9Vehicles at risk of being hit by timber


Number 10Damage to fencing and other garden features

Number 11Damage to street infrastructure

Number 12Damage to a valuable tree

You could be at risk if you employ a tree surgeon or tree advisor who works like this and causes harm, injury or loss to yourself or anyone else.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference between these tree surgeons

Number 1No helmet

Number 2No eye protection

Number 3No hearing protection

Number 4No fall protection

Number 5No cut protection

Number 6Outdated chainsaw

Number 1Industrial chainsaw helmet

Number 2Full-face visor including eye protection

Number 3Ear defenders for hearing protection

Number 4Rope and harness for fall protection

Number 5Chainsaw trousers / boots for cut protection

Number 6Modern chainsaw with safety features

Choose carefully

By choosing tree surgeons from this directory you have the security of knowing that each person or company has passed the Arboricultural Association’s rigorous and industry recognised standards of safety and tree care. All home/landowners have a responsibility* to engage competent people to work on their property. If you choose to use a contractor not listed in the directory the following checklist can help you establish the contractor’s competence.

*Common law duty of care responsibilities and sometimes liabilities under the Occupiers’ Liability Acts of 1957 & 1984.