What training & qualifications should tree workers have?

What training & qualifications should tree workers have?

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place general duties on employers and the self-employed to provide health and safety information and training. 

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 place more specific duties on employers and the self-employed to ensure that any person who uses or supervises the use of work equipment has had adequate training.

What do they require?

Legislation requires that training is provided when first starting work, exposure to new or increased risks occurs or for refresher purposes for high risk activities or non-frequently used skills. In particular, the Approved Code of Practice accompanying PUWER, 1998 requires:

  • Drivers of self-propelled machines (including any attachments or towed equipment) to have received adequate training;
  • Anyone working with chainsaws to hold a Certificate of Competence award or national competence award relevant to the work they undertake.

Training should be provided during normal working hours and at no cost to the employee.

Provision of Training

Training is commonly provided by a combination of in-house, college and specialist training depending upon the nature of the task involved and the required final outcome, i.e. certificates of competence etc. Where training is to be consolidated through work-based experience prior to testing the trainee should hold a recognised certificate of training and be adequately supervised by a competent person holding relevant certificates.

Due to the high risk nature of arboricultural operations it is strongly recommended that specialist instructors carry out required training.


Independent assessment is required for all professional users of chainsaws to ensure that the initial training has been fully understood and skills developed. For most advanced skills, assessment should be independent of any training (however some additional training may include integrated assessment). All such training and successful assessment will result in the award of a nationally recognised Ofqual qualification, certificate of competence, or licence to practice.

For less risky operations such as the use of woodchippers, stump grinders, MEWPS etc training and certification may be combined in an Integrated Training and Assessment package (ITA).

Any in-house training must be to the same level as the above and adequate records must be kept to demonstrate how this has been achieved.

Nationally recognised certificates of competence/licence to practice are a straightforward method of demonstrating skills for a particular operation without the need for further detailed records.

Holders of such certificates do not generally require close supervision, however ongoing monitoring of operating standards by the employer will be required, and should be recorded. It is unrealistic to expect operators who have passed certificates of competence to achieve full output until they have consolidated the skills learned.

Refresher Training

Regular refresher training should be completed by all professional users in order to maintain skills and knowledge. This will normally be every 5 years. Those who undertake operations infrequently may need more regular refresher training, every 2-3 years.

Further information:

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Arboricultural Association
The Malthouse, Stroud Green, Standish, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10 3DL

Arboricultural Association Ltd. A company registered in England at The Malthouse, Stroud Green, Standish, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10 3DL, UK. Company number 4070377.
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