New research identifies shed dangers putting lives at risk

03 July 2011

National Shed Week

An Electrical Safety Council (ESC) initiative focusing on shed safety launches today - in preparation for National Shed Week (w/c 4th July) as new research  shows that far from being a humble refuge, the garden shed could actually cost lives.

Of the top five ‘shed hazards’ identified below, three relate to electrical safety:

  • storing mains-powered tools uncovered - 32%;
  • not checking leads or plugs for damage - 28%;
  • using mains-powered tools without Residual Current Device (RCD) protection - 26%;
  • storing unsecure tins of chemicals such as weed, pest killer or paint - 38% and
  • leaving the sharp edges of garden tools uncovered - 58%

“Sheds are a British institution, providing anything from an escape from the rigours of daily life to a place where you can indulge your hobby”, explains Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council.

“Our concern is that sheds present an ‘increased shock risk’ because electrical equipment stored and installed in them is exposed to extreme temperatures and often damp, dusty conditions.   All these factors mean it is critical that shed devotees check wires and plugs for damage before using equipment and ensure that they have RCD protection – a safety device designed to help prevent you getting a fatal electric shock by rapidly switching off the flow of electricity.

“We advise that, as you are sprucing up your shed for National Shed Week, take five minutes to check your tools and leads are in good condition and ensure you have RCD protection – it could save your life.”

Gordon Thorburn, author of Men and Sheds says: “Many sheddies are highly practical men and women, who know all about safety and the proper use of electricity in their workshop-sheds, shed-offices, shed-studios and pub-sheds. There are also many who, like me, are a bit hazy, lazy and messy when it comes to wires and power points. It's not hard to see if you're protected by an RCD - just look at the fuse box, or consumer unit as they call it now, and see if there's an upward-pointing switch with a T button. If not, for goodness' sake get it sorted."

Figures derived from government data show around 70 people a year die from electrical accidents in and around UK homes.  Many of these accidents could have been prevented by an RCD. An RCD is a must-have safety device which is designed to help prevent you getting a fatal electric shock by rapidly switching off the flow of electricity if you touch something live, such as an exposed wire.

The ESC recommends you check your consumer unit (or fusebox) to ensure you have RCD protection  – particularly for your shed or the outside socket you use for gardening or DIY outdoors. If you don’t have it, as a temporary measure, you can pick up a plug-in RCD for just £10 in a home or garden centre.

The ESC is running a major campaign - Plug into Safety Campaign - to promote awareness and use of RCDs. For more information, go to www.



  1. Figure calculated from the percentage of survey respondents who had replied ‘yes’ to having a shed (56.91%) x UK population (48,675,400) = 27,701,170
  2. All figures are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2067 adults, of which 1189 have a shed. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 20th June 2011.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  3. Respondents selecting that they always, frequently or sometimes do each of these actions.
  4. Data supplied by: the Department of Communities and Local Government; the Health and Safety Executive; and the World Health Organisation  - 2007
  5. 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