April 21, 2021
An arborist is a professional who studies the structure and function of trees. Arborists are typically contracted for the care of trees on public and private property as well as parks and conservation areas.
To become professionals, arborists must be certified and undergo rigorous training. Their training includes skills like using ropes to climb towering trees and safely saw down dead branches. Spikes in demand for arborists have led to increases in uncertified workers who want to cash in on new demand for labour - a recognized problem in the industry in recent years. (1)
This is a high-risk job that often involves climbing trees and cutting off dead branches using chainsaws and heavy equipment. As such, arborists play an important role in the safety of people and property. Left untouched for too long, trees pose a threat to people’s homes through risks like overgrowing onto power lines or homes or collapsing onto roofs and cars in severe weather.
While every business faces risks that can affect the owner(s) personally, financially, and legally, tree service companies face even greater risks than most other types of businesses. Not only must they deal with common business- and employee-related issues, they also have industry-specific risks related to safety, equipment, chemicals, and their customers’ properties.
What’s At Risk For Professional Arborists in Canada
Typical exposures faced by arboriculture providers and other professionals who offer plant health care (PHC), large or hazard tree removal, tree risk assessment, or other specialty services, include liability risks. Liability covers a wide range of risks, including damage to the customer’s property, injuries to others, negligence, or serious errors and omissions.
Examples of Professional Liability exposures include:
● An arborist advising that a tree is not at risk of imminent failure; two weeks later, it falls over during a storm and damages the customer’s roof.
● A professional offering PHC sprays the wrong weight of horticultural oil, or does it at the wrong time of year, killing the treated plants.
● An arborist recommends an expensive treatment option to correct a problem with a customer’s prized tree; the treatment didn’t work and the customer sues the arborist for not just the cost of the ineffective treatment, but also for the cost of removing and replacing the tree.
Arborists can be taken to court over claims of negligence in the event of falling trees or branches. Even if they aren’t at fault, the legal expenses and reputation damage can be severe. A recent example comes from Port Moody, B.C., where two arborists were sued for alleged negligence in dealing with dangerous trees near a family property. (2)
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