Phil Hyatt’s top 10 tips for tree care in schools

We caught up with our Surrey based contract manager Phil Hyatt to talk about his top ten tips for education facilities looking to take better care of their tree stock and service providers supplying tree work in schools.

  1. Carry out regular surveys of your tree stock
    Tree surveys should be completed annually.  They are essential for identifying trees which are either at risk of failure or likely to cause harm to people or property.  The health and safety of pupils and staff is paramount, so carrying out regular inspections also provide local authorities with a stronger case against unforeseeable failures and mitigates risk.

  2. Be aware of storm damage
    After any major storms or events, we advise that schools have their trees checked for any loose hanging branches or structural defects.  It may be that although the tree looks fine, the wind has caused the roots to move, meaning it’s at risk of falling over.

  3. Make sure all staff are DBS checked
    The only restriction that acts upon you as a service provider for schools is the legislation associated with working around children.  All staff must have a DBS check prior to working on school grounds.  However, it is important to be aware that there is a lot of paperwork involved and it can take months before you receive a response.  In addition to the lengthy turnaround, there are costs to consider.  

  4. Adhere to the rule of taking mandatory breaks
    To avoid any potential accidents it is mandatory to take breaks at the same time as the children.  We pause when the whistle goes and anything dangerous is packed away until they return indoors.  The increased frequency of occasions when you have to stop work often means the project takes longer to complete and it’s important to bear this in mind when planning the job.

  5. Be mindful of student exam periods
    In senior schools particularly, exams are a huge factor in time restrictions.  If you’ve got chippers and chainsaws working outside, it’s not fair.  We have to be mindful of when we do heavy arb work, so we tend to try and complete it during half terms, holidays and at weekends.  It means you can avoid that interaction and disrupting their day-to-day routine.

  6. Build a good rapport with caretakers
    We’ve been sure to build a good rapport with caretakers who then allow us to work at the school on weekends and during holidays.  It’s definitely easier to work in an empty school as you don’t have to be constantly keeping an eye out, though that’s not to say you can be negligent with your health and safety.

  7. Never neglect your health and safety
    Glendale is very stringent on health and safety measures and the carrying out of specific risk assessments.  Schools present a set of unique risks in addition to the traditional risks associated with arb work, for example, the curiosity of children.  It’s important to be diligent with health and safety because it’s not unheard of for kids to try and jump on the chipper for a ride.  There are also the potential dangers to the public to take into account.  Our processes relating to risk assessments are very thorough.  Alongside specific risk assessments conducted by the team on site, the highest risk we must be aware of is the potential for either the staff or the public to come into the work zone.  

  8. Don’t forget about vehicle movement on site
    The movement of vehicles is also important to bear in mind as, obviously, they’re large vehicles with a lot of blind spots.  If you’re arriving early in the morning and there are people and children around, it is vital you switch on your full flashing lights and have workers following in front and behind to watch out for hazards.  

  9. Maintain good communication with your client
    The best way to combat all potential risks, as well as guarantee that works are delivered in a timely manner, is to maintain a positive relationship with both teaching staff and workers.  Often, messages don’t get passed down the line as efficiently as they could and this leads to confusion and dissatisfaction.  But you can tackle this miscommunication by maintaining a good relationship with staff both in your team and at the school.

  10. Be aware of Tree Preservation Orders
    Many schools are in conservation areas or hold Tree Preservation Orders particularly where my team are based in Surrey.  Our success in obtaining permission to work on trees is incredibly tree officer dependent.  Tree Preservation Orders are placed on trees to prevent buildings from being prioritised over the tree’s welfare.  However, as we’re not planning on building anything, they know we won’t treat the tree unfairly and they normally just prefer us to get on with our work rather than wait the six to eight weeks for the TPO application’s paperwork to come back.


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