An arborist, also known as a tree doctor or tree surgeon, is a professional who practices the management of shrubs, trees, vines and various forms of vegetation. They are not to be confused with a forester or a logger, who are tasked with managing forests and harvesting wood. Indeed, a tree doctor is tasked with maintaining the health, safety and quality of individual trees and plants. You might never have heard of the term, however, if you want to have a tree removed from your property or land, then an arborist is the professional you need to talk to.
In order to become a tree surgeon, a person needs to complete a traineeship in Horticulture. Entry requirements are generally very relaxed, with most employers taking in candidates that have completed up until Year 10. Receiving a bachelor’s or a graduate degree from a tertiary education facility could land someone in a more research-based position. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) provide varying levels of professional qualification on relevant education and training. On the job training is also a big part of this profession. Overseas trained arborists will be required to complete an equivalent traineeship or have at least three years of work experience.
What type of skills does an arborist need?
Employers look for a variety of important skills when profiling candidates. Employers generally prefer candidates that can solve complex problems, work independently, make decisions, work towards goals in a timely manner and execute under pressure. Naturally, one also needs to have an extensive knowledge of tree and plant species in Australia. For those coming from overseas, Australian employers can and will often sponsor international arborists, which grants them a Temporary Short Stay (TSS). This grants the person four years of employment in Australia, which could later lead to a permanent visa or permanent residency.
Where do they usually work?
As outlined prior, tree surgeons are often called in to assist with the management of trees that are impinging on private property or are viewed as a danger to the public. Maintaining safe school environments is a big part of what arborists do on a daily basis.
Tree doctors focus on maintaining the health, security and safety of trees, plants and vegetation. They examine such vegetation to see if there are any issues relating to structure, disease or the nutrition of the plant/tree. Part of their job is to evaluate if any damage has occurred to the tree or shrubs, often by assessing the colour and texture of the tree’s bark. Samples are often taken for testing at a research facility.
Tree surgeons are often involved in maintenance, so this includes trimming shrubs and removing dead branches. Dead branches could be a serious safety hazard, especially if they fall during high winds or thunderstorms, damaging cars and homes.
Maintaining the arborist’s safety
Ensuring the safety of the tree surgeon is something that is often forgotten. When working in close proximity to power lines or high above the ground, the risk of injury is quite high. Between 2010 and 2014, 33 people were killed by falling vegetation. Indeed, it is easy for a tree doctor to slip, fall or hurt themselves when approaching tree work. As a result, Safe Work Australia published a new guide to assist tree doctors with managing all the risks and dangers associated with their profession. It also addresses the duty of the employer to provide adequate safety equipment to all employees and provide all necessary breaks. Workplace fatigue is not something an arborist would want when working from a great height.