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Using Electrically Operated Tools in the Garden

A short time ago, I was contacted by a publicity company working with Electrical Safety First (formerly known as Electrical Safety Council) as part of their Get Smart in the Garden campaign. They wanted us to pubicise their electrical safety information. This information was along the lines of never using an electric lawnmower when the grass is damp and always using a registered electrician.

In my personal opinion, this type of advice is impractical and often it is counter productive so let me give you MY personal advice:

  • Use common sense. If it's raining heavily then the only electrical device you should be using is a kettle, indoors to make a cup of tea.
  • Remember that electrocution is not the only danger in the garden. Be careful not to trip or slip, especially when carrying heavy tools or using equipment such as lawnmowers. Wear proper, sensible shoes and appropriate clothing,
  • Consider buying cordless tools. The quality and battery life have improved over the years.
  • If you must use mains powered tools, remember that the cable is as big a danger (if not more of a danger) than the electricity. Make sure that it is routed so that it cannot be accidentally cut by whatever tool you are using and that nobody (including you) can trip over it.
  • Never use an extension cable with a domestic (13 amp) socket on the end of it. These are designed for using indoors (or possibly on a nice flat paved area). If possible, have the cable replaced with one that is long enough to reach the farthest point in the garden. Otherwise, use a moulded on waterproof connector.
  • The sockets in your house, garage, greenhouse or shed that you plug garden equipment into should have a switch on them. If they don't, strongly consider having them replaced. Switch off before unplugging and always unplug at the wall (even though it may mean a long walk) before unplugging a connector that is in the lead. Remember that, when you unplug a connector in the lead, you will have one end in each hand and any leakage (due to water or fault conditions) will try to go through YOU to get to the other side!
  • Keep cables coiled tidily when not in use and check them as you uncoil the cable for use. If you find any damage, replace the cable. Do NOT cover the damage with tape, it just isn't safe.
  • Always use an RCD (residual current device). You can now buy devices that plug into a mains socket and your equipment plugs into the RCD. They work by measuring the current that goes up the live line and back down the neutral line. Any small difference causes it to cut the power and so it will work with all types of electrical equipment.
  • An RCD is not a replacement for the fuse and the fuse is not a replacement for the RCD. They do two separate jobs. Always fit the correct type of fuse. A 3A (3 amp) fuse is good for anything that takes less than 700 watts (e.g. hedge cutters). Use 13A for lawnmowers.
  • Gardening gloves, even rubber ones, are not designed as insulators so don't rely on them to save you from an electric shock.


Most HPS local groups (that I have been to) have a number of members with considerable experience of fitting plugs and doing very simple elecrical work such as replacing unswitched sockets with switched ones. If you are not confident to do the work yourself, ask for help but remember that you will need a qualified electrician to add a totally new socket.

Cliff Powlesland

25th August 2014



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