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Get Smart In The Garden

by Penny Walshe

Electrical Safety First is calling on lawn mower and hedge trimmer manufacturers to improve the safety advice on their packaging and in their instruction manuals after new research reveals the products are responsible for thousands of injuries a year.

Over 300,000 people go to hospital each year because of an injury in the garden. And a third of gardening accidents are caused by electrical appliances.

41% of UK men who regularly garden have had an electrical accident in the garden, twice the number of women (20%). They are also less likely to read instruction manuals, with 18% saying they would never read safety instructions, compared to 13% of women.

Cutting through the cable of a lawn mower or hedge trimmer tops the list, responsible for 25% of garden accidents – a common mistake but something that can put lives as risk as contact with live wires can cause severe electric shocks or death by electrocution.

The safest way to minimise risk in the garden is to use a plug-in Residual Current Device (RCD). This life-saving device disconnects the electricity automatically if there is a fault, such as someone cutting through a cable. However, two thirds of gardeners who regularly mow their lawn or cut hedges have never heard of an RCD or simply don’t bother using one.

Find out more about RCDs

Electrical Safety First believes that manufacturers have a responsibility to warn gardeners of the risk of using high-powered electrical equpiment. However, while RCDs are mentioned in instruction manuals, the information is presented in a complex way and many don’t explain the danger behind not using one. And some manuals tend to suggest that an RCD would be most beneficial in wet conditions, playing down the risk users face when it is dry.

We want this guidance to be a lot clearer. Simple solutions such as including RCDs as standard with lawn mowers and hedge trimmers or attaching a tag to the plug of a product warning about the dangers are all it takes to change behaviour and help reduce electrical accidents in the garden.

Find out more about staying safe when you are using electricity outdoors.

You can also download our free leaflet.

Top tips to help you stay safe

  1. Use a Residual Current Device (RCD) with all outdoor electrical equipment. If you don’t have one built into your fusebox, you should use a plug-in RCD
  2. Switch off and unplug electrical items before cleaning, adjusting or checking them
  3. Store equipment in a dry, safe place and check that it hasn’t been damaged or affected by water before using it
  4. Be aware of where the electrical power cable is at all times
  5. Never use electrical equipment in wet conditions!