How to Choose a Tree Surgeon

Choosing a tree surgeon (sometimes called an arborist or arboriculturalist) can be a difficult task and if not done properly could lead to injury, damage to property and irrevocable damage to your trees.

Before employing a tree surgeon, try and visit a few of the surgeons recently completed jobs and if possible speak to the owners about the work.

  • Get at least two written quotes and be aware that the lowest quote may not be the best one. Always ask for a quotation not an estimate. An estimate is just that, an estimate; the price may change during the job. Professional tree surgeons will be happy to provide a quotation without obligation.
  • Get the quotation in writing and check that it includes disposal of arisings and that the site will be left reasonably clean & tidy. You also need to know whether VAT is payable.
  • If you wish to keep the logs or wood chips tell the tree surgeon while he is quoting, it may mean a reduction in the cost of the job.
  • If you need a tree root removed after a tree has been felled as opposed to leaving the stump make sure this is included on the quotation.
  • Never pay until the job is complete.

Approved Tree & Arboricultural Trade Associations

Contractors may say they are members of a trade association. Check the validity of any such claim. The Arboricultural Association who produces a list of approved contractors, can be contacted on tel: 01794 368717, email:; web: companies are also accredited by external organisations including CHAS, Constructionline, Exor, Safecontractor, Trustmark, Trading Standards and Which? These show an additional commitment to health and safety and proper procedures and training.

Ask the contractor if they work to a British Standard and which one (BS 3998:2010 Recommendations for Tree Work). Many reputable Tree contractors cover large areas of the country, but you should generally avoid 'door knockers'.

Reputable contractors will be happy to answer all your questions, as they have got nothing to hide. They will have a great deal of knowledge about different species of trees, when and how to work on them, and the pests and diseases that can affect them.

Once you have selected a contractor, ensure that the work to be carried out for the agreed sum is in writing, there is reference to BS 3998:2010.

Appropriate Tree Surgeon Training and Insurance

Tree work operations 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 who hold adequate insurance.

The Arboricultural contractor should provide proof of at least £2 million Public Liability Insurance. At least £10 million is required for works on or adjacent to the public highway.

There is now a legal requirement under Health and Safety Regulations that anyone using a chain saw at work must have received adequate training and be competent to operate a chain saw safely. Any Tree Contractor you employ should be able to produce a certificate of competence or national competence award. The National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) is the most usual certificate. Most contractors holding this certificate will have an identity card, which has a photograph and a list of the units of, competence passed. Arborists, as well as having practical qualifications, will often have academic qualifications in Arboriculture - ask what they are.

In addition to the certificate bear in mind the following:

  • Insurance and risk assessment: all contractors should have public indemnity insurance cover for the works that they undertake and the risks involved. Before the tree contractor starts ask if they have carried out a risk assessment.
  • Personal and protective equipment: all contractors operating tree work machinery must use the appropriate safety clothing and equipment.
  • Free climbing: no Tree contractors working in a tree can do so without being securely anchored into the tree by means of a rope and harness, unless working from a hydraulic platform or ladder.
  • Lone workers: no Tree contractor should be allowed to work on his/her own where tree climbing is involved.
  • Roads: contractors working on trees that are adjacent to the public highway, must comply with the requirements of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. This requires use of appropriate warning signs, cones and barriers.

Jenks Tree Surgeons have the following qualifications and health and safety policies

You should always contact the Planning Authority to find out if your trees are covered by a Tree Preservation Order Planning Condition, Legal Agreement (S.106), or are within the Conservation Area. This can be done by telephoning your local authority. If your trees are protected, you will need written consent to carry out the work.

Jenks Arboricultural consultants can provide professional tree management advice and guidance on protected trees. Fill in our contact form to request more information or call 0800458 3328.