How can we Improve the Standard of Tree Care in Ireland?
Updated: May 26
Look familiar? What our trees should look like!
Professional Standards- What Professional Standards?!
In Ireland, there are currently no mandatory professional standards for tree care providers. There are membership programs for arborists hosted by non-profit organisations such as The Irish Tree Society and The Tree Council of Ireland- however they are only OPTIONAL. The Irish are only just introducing the Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor Scheme (AAAC) scheme… which is alarming as it has been well established in the UK since 1962.
This scheme was initially created by the Arboricultural Association as a means of identifying reputable tree care companies and promoting high standards of workmanship and safety in the industry. According to the Arboricultural Association's website, there are currently only 16 tree surgery companies in Ireland that hold AAAC certification or an ISA certification- out of over 1,000 tree care companies operating across the country!
This open and flagrantly flexible attitude to professional standards in tree care juxtaposes quite radically with the robust system in the UK. As of September 2021, there were 339 tree surgery companies in the UK that held the Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor Scheme (AAAC) certification. Companies in the UK strive to sustain high standards of tree care, because the UK have a legislation in place that regulates tree care activities (The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974).
Examples of bad pruning cuts
So how does the lack of professional tree care standards affect Irish people?
1. There is no regulation!
Firstly, due to the lack of regulation, anyone in Ireland can call themselves a tree surgeon or arborist, regardless of their qualifications or experience. This has led to concerns about the quality of work and safety standards in the industry. Being able to call yourself a tree surgeon, regardless of qualifications or experience, has led to an influx of untrained and unskilled workers in the industry, which ultimately results in poor quality workmanship and unsafe practices… i.e your trees being hacked and you not being able to do anything about it. The amount of savaged trees in Munster alone is alarming. Drive in your car and almost 70% of the trees you see, that have been cut, will have been lopped, topped and left open to disease and decay. Trees cut by unqualified workers who have no idea how to treat trees as the living things they are.
Don't know what topping and lopping is? See the images below!
Does this type of tree work look familiar to you?!
If you hack, butcher or top a tree, then it will only re-shoot like crazy in a bid to survive.
This leaves you with a far more unmanageable tree, needing far more care, at more expense- and a damn ugly tree to look at.
2. Safety- Bad tree work results in death and damage
The concern around safety is no laughing matter. Incidents involving trees: According to data from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), between 2010 and 2019, there were 27 fatalities and 28 serious injuries in the agriculture and forestry sector, some of which were related to tree care activities. The poor standard of tree care in Ireland was also evident in the high number of incidents involving falling trees and branches. In 2020 alone, there were over 500 incidents reported across the country, with many resulting in damage to property and injury to people. These incidents could have been prevented with proper tree care and maintenance.
In Ireland there have been three tree-related fatalities occurred during storms in 2023.
3. You don't get what you pay for
Furthermore, the lack of regulation and oversight has also led to a significant variation in pricing for tree care services. Some companies charge exorbitant rates for poor quality work, while others offer low prices but deliver substandard results. This inconsistency in pricing and quality can make it difficult for consumers to choose a reliable and trustworthy tree care provider.
4. No Public Funding means Dangerous Trees in Public Spaces
In Ireland, the responsibility for maintaining trees on public land lies with the local authorities. However, there have been reports of a lack of funding and resources for tree maintenance, which has led to concerns about the safety of trees in public spaces. This lackadaisical attitude means that when walking through a park with your family, it is by all means likely that that wonky looking dead branch may actually fall on your head.
The lack of tree care standards - and no funding to carry out vital tree maintenance - means that tree risk gets ignored, putting you, your family and your property at risk.
Trees in public spaces, uprooted during storms. Could this damage have been prevented by appropriate tree maintenance and surveying schedules being carried out?
So how can you help improve professional tree standards?
As a homeowner, you must become aware of the importance of proper tree care (see our page Tree Owner Information for more advice). Many people view trees as self-sustaining organisms that require little or no attention. However, trees require regular maintenance, including pruning, trimming, and fertilizing, to remain healthy and safe. Failure to provide this care can result in weakened or diseased trees that pose a risk to property and people.
'You are responsible for your dead or dying trees or overgrown hedges'
Ultimately- it is important for customers to be aware of these issues and to do their research before hiring a tree surgeon. Always ask for your tree company's insurance details. Always ask for a copy of their qualifications. If the company is appropriately certified then they will have no problem showing them to you.
In addition to this, you should look for companies or individuals who hold professional certifications or memberships, such as the Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor Scheme (AAAC) in the UK, or the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certification in other countries. These certifications indicate that the company or individual has met certain standards of training, experience, and safety.
The poor standard of tree care in Ireland is a cause for concern. The lack of regulation and oversight, combined with the lack of awareness among homeowners and property managers, has led to a high number of incidents involving falling trees and branches. It is essential that homeowners and property managers prioritize proper tree care and maintenance to ensure the safety of their property and the people around them. Moreover, the government should take steps to regulate the industry and ensure that only qualified and experienced professionals are permitted to provide tree care services.
Improving the standard of tree care in Ireland will require a concerted effort from various stakeholders. By introducing regulations, raising awareness, providing certification, encouraging collaboration, and increasing enforcement efforts, we can ensure that only qualified and experienced professionals are providing tree care services, leading to a safer and healthier environment for all.