Setting the standards in landscapingSandra Loton-Jones, Chief Executive of the British Association of Landscape Industries, gives an update on the Association's latest work
BALI was formed in 1972 to provide a voice for landscapers and to improve standards in an industry that had seen its fair share of 'cowboy' operators. Today the majority of the Association's 750-plus members are landscapers, grounds maintenance contractors and companies that supply to the industry.
The membership also includes garden designers, interior landscapers, academic institutions and individuals. Together they strive to promote best practice, quality and professionalism in the landscaping industry.
Full membership of the Association is reassuringly difficult to achieve. Contractors must have traded for a minimum of two years and submit their business and its operations to the Association's stringent vetting procedure. If successful in all areas, and in addition to their statutory, environmental and community responsibilities, the company must then sign up to the strictly enforced BALI Code of Conduct.
Full contracting members are re-vetted on a regular basis and, in the event of a client complaint, BALI provides a prompt dispute resolution and arbitration service. Landscaping design, construction and maintenance excellence is recognised at the annual BALI National Landscape Awards - the largest in the industry.
Health and safety
In addition to the full range of industry skills development available to BALI members, health and safety is given a high priority. BALI operates the Registration of Landscape Operatives (ROLO) card scheme.
To obtain a card, members' employees must first pass a stringent health and safety course designed specifically for the landscaping industry. The card also carries details of the holder's trade qualifications.
BALI, in consultation with the British Standards Institute, has helped develop a management standard for business management, as in ISO 9000 (2004), and best landscaping practice.
This is an innovative industry approach to the BS EN ISO system of accreditation and enables landscapers and grounds maintenance contractors tendering for major contracts to show that they follow a recognised Quality Management system.
BALI is also represented on the Highways Agency Advisory Committee, set up to develop a Sector Scheme for the Environment, Landscape and Ecology.
Once finalised and published, contractors wanting to work for the Highways Agency, rail networks and other utilities organisations will need to have Scheme accreditation.
This Government-backed initiative aimed at contractors working in the domestic market was launched in January 2006 and is designed to give consumers confidence in the tradesmen they use to work on their homes.
BALI has been appointed as the first TrustMark Approved Scheme Operator for soft landscaping and hardscaping.
Recruiting young people into the industry is difficult and BALI is working closely with its industry counterparts to encourage young people to consider landscaping and horticulture as a career and explore the training opportunities available to them.
The UK Landscape Skills competition is an excellent initiative to help achieve this goal. Project managed by BALI on behalf of UKSKills, last year's competition saw more teams than ever enter heats across the country.
The finals at IOG SALTEX last September demonstrated the outstanding skills of the young people who took part and were an excellent showcase for the industry.
The overall winners now have the opportunity to try for a place in the 2007 World Skills Competition in Japan.
BALI exists to offer support and guidance to its membership, providing free technical, legal and health and safety advice through a helpline.
The Association's quarterly magazine, Landscape News, and the accompanying Business News give members access to a breadth of pertinent industry and business information, and BALI Insure provides insurance tailored to the needs of the industry at very competitive rates.
A regional network of BALI member groups run regular meetings with guest speakers, visits, training days and other events which are designed to help grow the industry.