Poor safety advice lands thousands of gardeners in hospital a year

07 August 2014

Stay smart in the garden

Electrical Safety First asks manufacturers of gardening equipment to make life-saving advice clearer 

  • A third of all gardeners have had an electrical accident in the garden – and men have twice as many accidents as women 
  • The top cause is cutting through the cable of a lawnmower or hedge trimmer, something that can cause a severe electric shock or even kill if there is no RCD protection 
  • Electrical Safety First mystery shopping exercise shows manufacturers are not doing enough to protect customers – even though simple solutions, like clearer guidance, could save lives

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. 

Every year 300,000 people are hurt seriously enough in their garden to require hospital treatment, and a third of all gardeners have had an electrical accident in the garden.[i]  Men are particularly at risk as they are having twice as many accidents in the garden compared to women.[ii]

Cutting through the cable of a lawn mower or hedge trimmer tops the list of accidents[iii] – 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) with all mains voltage electrical equipment like lawn mowers and hedge trimmers. The life-saving device disconnects the electricity automatically if there is a fault, such as someone cutting through a cable. Electrical Safety First found that 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.[iv]

The Charity believes that it is the responsibility of manufacturers to warn gardeners of the risk of using high-powered electrical equipment, yet a mystery shopping exercise it conducted looking at gardening equipment found that manufacturers are not doing enough to protect their customers.

Whilst 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. Furthermore 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.[v]

Electrical Safety First wants this guidance to be a lot clearer and obvious, especially as their research shows that half of people don’t bother to read safety instructions that come with electrical equipment.[vi] Again men are putting themselves at risk as they are less likely than women to read instruction manuals.[vii]

Phil Buckle, Director General of Electrical Safety First said: “We know that reading through a lengthy instruction manual when you first buy electrical equipment can be tedious and time-consuming, and the reality is that many people don’t bother.  But an incredibly high number of people are having accidents in the garden and so it’s up to manufacturers to do all they can to ensure their customers are using an RCD with all mains voltage equipment – not just in wet conditions.

“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.”

For advice and tips on staying safe in the garden, visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/gardening


For more information please contact Libby or Rachel on electricalsafetyfirst@forster.co.uk or call 0207 403 2230.

Notes to Editors:

  • Electrical Safety First is the UK charity dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents. We campaign to improve safety regulation and messages, and provide expert information and advice to the public and professionals to help ensure everyone in the UK can use electricity safely. Visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk for more information
  • Mystery shopping exercise was conducted on Wednesday 16th July and ten lawn mower and hedge trimmer products were evaluated from six different manufacturers. A full breakdown of findings and results is available on request.
  • All consumer research, unless otherwise stated, was conducted from 11th – 13th July 2014 by Populus on behalf of Electrical Safety First with a sample of 2,055 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults
  • According to Electrical Safely First’s research, the top five gardening accidents are caused by the following:
  1. Garden forks and spades
  2. Hedge trimmers
  3. Electric lawnmowers
  4. Secateurs, shears or pruners
  5. Garden canes and sticks

[i] According to RoSPA. Figures are based on the Department of Trade and Industry’s Home Accident Surveillance System report 2002. 300,000 people are hurt in their gardens each year seriously enough to go to hospital. http://www.rospa.com/faqs/detail.aspx?faq=222

Electrical Safety First data shows that 31% of UK adults who regularly garden have had an accident caused by an electrical appliance in the garden

[ii] 41% of UK men who regularly garden have had an electrical accident in the garden compared to 20% of women who regularly garden

[iii] 25% of accidents caused in the garden for UK adults who regularly garden were caused by cutting through the cable of a lawn mower or hedge trimmer 

[iv] 63% of UK adults who regularly use electrical equipment in the garden either do not know what an RCD is or would not always use one when gardening

[v] 60% of products evaluated do not explain why using a RCD is important as they do not mention the risks of not using one. 40% products allude to the risk of an electric shock but only when using the product in wet conditions.

[vi] 53% of UK adults who regularly garden with electrical equipment don’t read safety instructions supplied with gardening equipment like lawn mowers and hedge trimmers

[vii] 18% of men would never read safety instructions supplied with electrical gardening equipment compared to 13% of women