Women gardeners more at risk than male partners

21 April 2011

Electrical safety outdoors

A new survey1 commissioned by the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) shows that nearly half of women gardeners may be risking their lives this bank holiday because they’ve never used  or haven’t heard of  an RCD (residual current device).

An RCD is a life-saving device which is designed to protect you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire.  RCD protection is particularly important whilst using mains-powered electrical equipment outdoors, where there is an increased risk of electric shock.

Almost half of women surveyed have either never used or have never heard of an RCD (23% and 26% respectively) and women are also less likely than men to consider the potential dangers of electrical gardening equipment (47% vs 56%).  This is despite the fact a previous surveyhas shown that a quarter of women have experienced at least one electric shock during their lifetime while at home or in the garden.

So, as Britain gears up for the bank holiday weekend the ESC is urging all gardeners,  and women in particular , to take five minutes to check they are protected by an RCD and that wires and plugs for equipment such as lawnmowers and hedge trimmers - which have been languishing in the shed all winter – are all intact.

Lorraine Carney, Head of Campaigns at the ESC says: “Contrary to popular belief our survey shows that when it comes to gardening, women aren’t always safety conscious. Just over a third say that before gardening they rarely take the time to check for signs of damage, such as looking at  cables and plugs on electrical gardening equipment.  Without RCD protection, this could be potentially fatal. Our bank holiday message is very straightforward - do a simple safety check to ensure you have RCD protection, which could one day save your life.

Matthew Biggs, presenter of Channel 4’s ‘Garden club’ and a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ says: “Having nearly done it myself a couple of times, I know how easy it is to cut the cable of an electrical hedge trimmer. Don’t push your luck when using electrical equipment in the garden - be sure to check your appliances for faulty cables and always use an RCD. Sensible gardeners stay safe.”

Figures derived from government data show about 70 people a year die from electrical accidents in and around UK homes.3 Many of these accidents could have been prevented by an RCD. The ESC recommends you check your consumer unit (or fusebox) to ensure you have RCD protection4 – particularly in those sockets you use for gardening. If you don’t have it, as a temporary measure, you can pick up a plug-in RCD for just £10 in a DIY or garden centre.

The ESC is running the Plug into Safety Campaign to promote awareness and use of RCDs. For more information, go to https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/




1 Ipsos MORI conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,081 adults aged 16+ who are married or living with a partner. Following the first screener question to establish gardening habits, questions were asked only of respondents where they or their partner garden frequently or occasionally (807 respondents). Face-to-face interviews were conducted in-home across Great Britain on Ipsos MORI’s weekly quota controlled omnibus (‘Capibus’) survey. Fieldwork was conducted from 25 February - 3 March 2011. Data are weighted to the known profile of the population of Great Britain (adults aged 16+).

2 25% of women have experienced at least an electric shock in their lifetime while in the home or garden. This question was placed on one wave of Ipsos MORI’s Capibus service, the regular Ipsos MORI survey among the general public. A nationally representative quota sample of 1,049 adults aged 18+ throughout Great Britain was interviewed by Ipsos MORI. Interviews were conducted face-to-face in respondents’ homes, using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) between 23 and 29 July 2010.  The results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population in Great Britain

3 Data supplied by the Department of Communities and Local Government, Health and Safety Executive and the World Health Organization – 2007

4 To check if you have RCD protection, have a look in your consumer unit (fusebox) to see if there is a device having a button marked ‘T’ or ‘Test’. This is an RCD - there may be more than one. You should test RCDs about every three months to confirm they are working properly – it should cut off the power in the areas of your home that it protects. If it doesn’t, you should get advice from a registered electrician. Please note that RCD protection in your consumer unit may not cover your entire home. If you do not have RCD protection in your consumer unit, plug-in RCDs should be used, especially for equipment used outdoors.

For more information please contact media@electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk