Engaging contractors: guidance notes

Points to consider when selecting a contractor to carry out tree work:

Health and Safety

By law, any business with more than five employees is obliged to have a written health and safety policy. In addition, there are other obligations on safe working practices which apply to all those engaged in tree work, such as the wearing of specified personal protective clothing. All tree work contractors should be aware of current Health and Safety Guidelines applicable to their specific work. A risk assessment should be carried out prior to any work starting, in which the occupier should participate, identifying all known hazards such as overhead cables.

Insurance

Clients are advised to inspect insurance certificates to check the policy expiry date and that the type of work proposed is covered by the policy. Public Liability cover is necessary to safeguard your property, and that of your neighbours, in the event of an accident; Employers' Liability is compulsory for anyone who has employees; and Professional Indemnity insurance is recommended where professional advice is given.It is difficult to specify the amount of Public Liability or Professional Indemnity cover advisable, as every job varies but it is recommended that you satisfy yourself that the level of cover is adequate for your circumstances. If a contractor is unable or unwilling to produce valid insurance certificates you would be unwise to commission him to undertake work on your behalf.

Competence

Clients may wish to enquire about individual qualifications, number of years in tree work and in present post. Anyone offering to undertake chainsaw work should have certificates of competence for the appropriate activities. Details of the scope of certificates of competence for tree work may be found on the Health and Safety Executive website http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/forindex.htm It is a legal requirement that anyone offering services involving the application of pesticides must have a certificate of competence.

Contract

It is recommended that the scope of the work and the price, should be clearly defined in a written quotation. The quotation should specify who is responsible for the clearance and disposal of arisings. If the contractor is to remove arisings, he will need a waste carrier's licence. Irresponsible disposal is a public nuisance. Written acceptance of the quote and its detailed terms is also recommended. Verbal agreements are difficult to substantiate in the event of a dispute.

References

If you know nothing about a contractor or his competence you would be well advised to ask for references. A reputable contractor will often be a member of a trade association or professional body - there are several. Ask to see a membership card and, if in doubt, contact the association to check that the contractor is a current member and seek further advice if this is required. Trade associations will usually help with the resolution of disputes but are rarely able to give any form of guarantee on the professional competence of their members.

Compliance with the law

It is recommended that clients should not rely on a contractor to conduct research on any statutory designations such as Tree Preservation Orders or Conservation Areas which may be in place. Substantial fines are often imposed on the owner of a tree in cases of breach of such designations. Householders can easily obtain advice on the presence of statutory designations by contacting their local council.

Felling licences are not required for trees in gardens. If you are in doubt, check with your local Forestry Commission office or visit the website www.forestry.gov.uk There are two relevant leaflets: Tree felling licences and permissions; Important changes to tree felling law.

A properly insured, trained and equipped contractor may cost you a little more, but is likely to provide you with a more satisfactory result.

This guidance is not comprehensive, but is intended to be of some assistance to anyone engaging a contractor for tree work. ConFor cannot accept responsibility for any event arising as a result of engaging a contractor.