Based on feedback from our customers, we know that most homeowners in South Florida look for low prices, fast turnaround, and good clean up after tree trimming or removal work.
While all of those are important things to look for when hiring a tree care company, there are a few other things that may serve as a better indicator of the level of tree care and service you will receive.
Certifications, training, safety, and insurance may not be the things you notice when you drive by and see heavy equipment and crews in matching shirts working on trees.
However, these are the things with the biggest impact on the health of your property, the level of safety for all involved, and your wallet!
In this article, we break down the reasons why tree care insurance and licensure are critical, and exactly what to look for when hiring a tree service company to work on your residential or commercial property.
Certifications and Safety Training Prevent Injuries to People and Trees
Safety always comes first for us – and for any Certified Arborist. Why? Because tree work is the second most dangerous job in the United States. That statistic surprises many people, but with the combination of sharp and potentially dangerous equipment, old and unsteady trees, extreme heights, unpredictable weather, electrical wires, and heavy falling objects (like tree limbs), the statistic starts to make more sense.
With a Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) on staff, we spend a lot of time at Sherlock Tree Company going over safety procedures. We train for different scenarios and ensure that safety is always top-of-mind for all members of our crew. Just as astronauts practice for enclosed spaces and lack of gravity, we train for worst-case scenarios so we know what to do at any critical moment.
People aren’t the only ones that get injured from tree work – we see injured trees all the time around South Florida. As people who got into this business because we love trees, it’s painful to see trees that were incorrectly pruned, hat racked, covered with too much mulch, or staked for too long. We see this type of “tree abuse” constantly, and it’s invariably done by individuals or companies that don’t have the training and certifications necessary to do the job properly.
Training and tree care certifications ensure that everyone on the Sherlock Tree team knows the correct pruning methods, the safest tree removal techniques, and the physics behind trees and the equipment we use.
Checking for Qualifications Can Save You Money
This may seem like a strange statement, as Certified Arborists with larger pieces of equipment (and extensive insurance coverage) generally charge more than a local “tree guy” with a chainsaw, pickup truck, and a ladder.
The truth is, tree work done by inexperienced or unqualified individuals may cost you less up front, but can be much more expensive in the long run.
For example, we often see trees in South Florida that have been “topped” or “hat racked,” where all the branches have been severely cut back to shorten the tree. Unfortunately, doing this deprives the tree of the energy it would normally get from photosynthesis (where leaves turn air and sunlight into energy). In response, it quickly puts out a whole mess of weakly-attached, fast-growing branches (called watersprouts) to try to get some sustenance as quickly as possible.
Of course, those waterspouts are an eyesore and make the tree larger again, so the tree’s owner will schedule another pruning. And then another. This cycle ends when the tree dies a premature death because it was not able to produce enough energy to survive, and the tree owner now has to schedule and pay for tree removal, not to mention any replacement trees.
This provides lots of work for the company that’s constantly pruning the tree, but is bad for the tree (and the owner’s wallet)!
Hiring someone who knows what they’re doing will lead to healthier trees and more bang for your buck.
Specific Things To Look for When Hiring A Tree Care Company
Things to check for include certifications, licensure, and insurance. We detail all three below.
The Tree Care Industry Association provides accreditation for a tree care company that passes a series of in-depth inspections and audits that examine employee training, safety regulations, equipment use and maintenance, adherence to professional tree care standards, and business practices (including complete and proper insurance), with the goal of protecting consumers. Becoming a TCIA accredited company takes time, hard work, and diligence, which is why, at the time of this writing, there are only 19 accredited companies in all of Florida, including Sherlock Tree Company.
Hiring a TCIA accredited company means that tree work will be performed to high standards by thoroughly trained employees.
Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP)
To become certified as a CTSP by the Tree Care Industry Association, a tree care worker attends a workshop and becomes educated on safe work practices that are focused on leadership, hazard identification, incident control and prevention, and learning.
ISA Certified Arborist
An arborist has been extensively trained in planting, caring for, and maintaining trees. Certified Arborists have experience and knowledge in tree care and have passed an examination from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) that covers all aspects of tree care. You can be sure that a Certified Arborist is knowledgeable about your trees and can therefore make assessments, suggest appropriate methods of treatment or prevention, and safely prune, maintain, and remove trees.
Tree care companies in Florida are not required to have a Certified Arborist on staff, but it’s a good indicator that the company values and provides correct and appropriate tree care. It also signifies an appreciation for doing things the right way and protecting and maintaining trees to add value to your property.
Learn more about why you should hire a Certified Arborist.
Sherlock Tree Company has three ISA Certified Arborists on staff – Jonathan Wolfson (FL-6648A), Dennis Forgione (FL-5918A), and Mark Merritt. You can verify their qualifications here.
Tree Risk Assessment Qualification
This advanced credential, earned by Certified Arborists and offered through the International Society of Arboriculture, certifies that the individual demonstrates professional knowledge in tree risk assessment. It’s another layer of knowledge to keep your trees and our employees safe.
It gives Certified Arborists a standardized, systematic process for assessing tree risk, making informed decisions about the degree of risk a tree poses, and providing helpful and actionable information to tree owners and risk managers. The goal of those who achieve this qualification is to promote the safety of people and property, as well as to enhance tree benefits, health, and longevity.
Broward County Tree Trimming License
Broward County requires a tree trimming license for all companies who prune (or trim) trees on commercial or residential properties. There are two classes of licenses.
Class A License: Must be certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or American Society of Consulting Arborists and provide a notarized affidavit proving work experience.
Class B License: Completion of a 4-hour training program and presence of one trained person per job site.
To obtain this license, a company must also prove that it has the correct Certificate of Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
Sherlock Tree has a Class A License – No. A-1205.
Along with certification, licensure, and safety training, any tree company you hire should have the proper insurance. Specifically, check for liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.
While many people believe that their homeowner’s insurance will protect them if something goes wrong – an employee gets injured or a tree limb falls on a neighboring property – it is often dependent on what insurance coverage the tree worker has. For instance, if a tree care employee is injured while working on your property, you may be personally responsible for their medical bills, lost income, and more – unless the company has workers’ compensation insurance that specifically covers employees for the type of work they were doing.
Tree care liability insurance is very specific. Landscapers, for instance, often say that they are covered for tree work, but their policies often state that they are only covered for work up to 15 feet from the ground, or only when the worker is on the ground.
Just as in the example above, if a landscaper falls while working in a tree 20 feet above the ground, you may be liable.
Check that the tree care company you hire has the correct liability insurance for the work they will be performing.
Any tree care company that you hire should have a current workers’ compensation policy. Tree care is a dangerous field of work, and, while every effort is made to avoid accidents, they do happen. Workers’ compensation takes care of any employee injured while on the job.
Ask to See a Certificate of Insurance
If you’re wondering how you can check that a company has these necessary forms of insurance, know that you can request a copy of their certificate of insurance. Check that they’re covered specifically for tree work and that they have workers’ compensation insurance for all employees.
It’s also a good idea to double-check that the policy is still in force and hasn’t expired.
While certifications and insurance may not be the most exciting things to educate yourself about before hiring a tree care company, it can save you money, headaches, and hassle in the long run. Ensure that any tree service company you hire has the correct insurance to keep yourself and their employees safe, and look for certifications and accreditations instead of making your decision solely on the initial cost.
Call Sherlock for quality tree services
Whether you're looking for specific tree care services, such as palm trimming, tree removal, or disease treatments, or would like one of our Arborists to examine your trees to identify any issues and recommend options, we're always here for you! Just give us a call at 954-788-4000 to set up an appointment.
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