Jonathan Hazell discusses the difficulties of keeping all parties happy while taking into account the necessary health and safety and regulatory considerations
There is a dilemma that will be faced almost every day by every professional in arboriculture, be they contractor, technician or consultant.
And that is – who is right?
A contractor delivering a tree service contract, maybe for a local authority or other client of similar covenant, may arrive at the work site and totally disagree with what he has been asked to do under the specification proposed by the client for a particular consumer or customer. Back in the day I remember being told by certain clients that we must not engage with the public but just get on and do what we had been instructed to do.
A technician such as a junior consultant working on enterprise wide tree surveys has a different take on the issue. They will be recommending appropriate management intervention where required, but what is the correct treatment for a particular issue for a specific consumer? More likely than not there will be a menu of options, quite possibly driven by the contractor’s schedule of rates, but which one to choose?
The more senior consultant has the same problem – what is the right thing to say to a client? There will be constraints that might close out or limit certain options but how to convey to the client that their anxieties (or possibly, their lack of concern) are not borne out by reality but are groundless?
The difficulty for the contractor is that they are putting someone else’s decision into place without really knowing all that has gone into that decision.
Hopefully, no treatment will do lasting harm to a tree and a range of prescriptions will deliver some relief to a customer or consumer. The client has either had to influence or to make the decision over which one is to be implemented, balancing their desired outcome and their attitude (corporate and personal) towards risk against customer attitudes, funding, precedent, their status and esteem within their organisation, as well as regulation and legislation.
An experienced contractor will have seen it all before and may not be surprised at what they have been asked to do. Those with less experience may want to ask questions.
For those carrying out volume tree surveys, the prescription should be evidence led of course, but again there will be a range of options that will give the client what he wants and maybe the consumer too – the sophisticated client will accept that the prescription should be customer led and will help the surveyor make an appropriate recommendation.
As well as the balance that the client has had to reach to come to the right conclusion, additional considerations will include the symptoms and the desired outcome for the customer, as well as timing. When post-processing, some jobs in one locality may be brought forward for service delivery efficiency. But what if a consumer wants something that the client won’t deliver – who is right? Arboricultural knowledge and understanding as well as personal morality and ethics will be at work in the background!
For more intimate consultant led inspections, the recommendation may be influenced by, amongst other things, the presenting symptoms, the understanding of the client, their desired outcome, their attitude towards risk, precedent, regulation and legislation. Again knowledge and understanding, morality and ethics will be in the mix.
So who is right?
Jonathan Hazell’s career began on the tools with the Ealing tree gang in 1980. Senior roles in the public, charity and commercial sectors followed and in October 2011 Jonathan established his own arboricultural consultancy practice. www.jhazell.com