Monday, July 9, 2007

ISA HK/China --- Arborist's role in a tree quote

***Station Mail is for the information of Station Members only. Comments from outsiders are usually not entertained & may be circulated within our system.***

Dear Station Members,

The Station Manager was called out for a tree quote at a school today as usual. The school principal there wanted their trees over-hanging a public pavement chopped short before the typhoon season so that the school does not have to become liable for any damage done to the pedestrians & traffic underneath. The school principal reckoned that he knew a lot about tree care, & had instructed the Station Manager on what to do & how to quote.

The Station Manager first asked: ' Who owns these trees? ' The answer was : ' Not sure. Probably the school.'

The Station Manager then asked: ' Would the school take up full responsibilities if the trees were topped & failed to hit somebody or something in a few year's time?' The answer was: ' Ah... Is there such a thing as legal liability if I chop these trees? I'm only doing it in the name of safety. I'm actually doing the public a favour. Why should I be liable? '

The meeting was originally scheduled for 15 minutes only. When the Station Manager finished explaining the procedures & consequences for topping public trees, the session took well over an hour to complete. At the end, the school principal said to the Station Manager: ' I'm really grateful for an Arborist coming. I never knew there is much to learn about tree care. I thought it was just another common gardener's duty. Now I know it is professional.'

The above is just another common case of quoting for tree work by the Station Manager in the past few years. The public are usually ignorant about their legal liabilities when it comes to tree care. Most think that any tree failure can be blamed on 'Act of God'. In reality, as long as the trees are under the domain of a property owner, the Duty of Care or Negligence of the tree owner can hardly be escaped in Court. It's just that the victims do not usually know enough about their rights before.

The simple approach of the Station Manager to any tree quote would be as follows:

1. Who owns the trees? Govt or Private Sector? If the ownership is uncertain, it is better to find out before next.

2. Has a tree inspection been carried out by an Arborist? If not, by whom? Is that person qualified? If nobody at all, would the customer pay to carry out a tree inspection first? Would there be any tree climbing for canopy inspection required? The Arborist carrying out the tree inspection will assume full legal liabilities for the observation & the report may serve as Court evidence in future.

3. What are the recommendations in the Arborist Report after the tree inspection? Is pruning suggested as a mitigation measure? What kind of pruning? Any pruning specification & to what standard?

4. Is the employment of a tree climber necessary to do the pruning inside the tree canopy where lifting platform can not reach? Would the Arborist be employed to supervise the pruning? What are the safety procedures involved in the rigging work?

5. How long would the effect of this round of pruning serve & when should the next round be carried out?

The above would be some common questions that the Station Manager would forward to the customer before giving a quote. The Arborist Profession is a legally sensitive profession. Western Arborists frequently go to Court to witness or be sued. It is therefore better be safe than sorry for any Arborist work.

Now it can be seen that Arborists do not compare in taking risks with common landscapers. There is a knife on their necks which can drop fast if the work is not done professionally. This is what distinguishes Arborists from most other landscape professions. On the other hand, this is what makes them proud with internal pride.

This Station reckons as long as our Arborists can maintain Integrity, Professionalism & Participation in the HK/China region, we may be able to tread free in the minefields.

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

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