Gardening leave

No, I haven’t been fired!

If you saw me at DLExpo a couple of weeks ago, you may have noticed my rapidly expanding waistline. Yes, we have a new team member on the way, so I’m easing back and spending more time in the garden than on site – weather allowing!

Since it’s also National Barbecue Week, and Adrian has been working from home, we’ve been enjoying delicious barbecue food. He’s a great cook – lucky, since I’m not! – and got a big barbecue for his birthday last year. While the weather is so good it seems a shame not to do some garden improvements and make the most of it. If that means I get sunshine and good food, so much the better!

Meal prepared entirely on the barbecue
Fish, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, onions, and leeks – now that’s what I call a good barbecued dinner!

In this garden

OK, ours is more of a yard than a garden. But it’s that time of year when everybody is digging out the lawnmower and the hedge cutters.

We test a surprising amount of garden tools – care homes, hotels, and local councils often have a good selection hidden away. And we see a lot of things that’re electrically unsafe.

One of my pet bugbears is gardening extension leads like this 10-metre lead. It’s a perfectly good extension lead, and has a reinforced plug and socket which is good. However, there are no other safety features on it. I much prefer this 15-metre extension – from the same manufacturer – which has a reinforced mains plug and a weatherproof socket. It’s not much, but we live in Britain.

Let’s be honest – we’ve all performed the ritual rain dance (lighting the barbecue) and been caught out when the heavens opened 10 minutes later. A decent IP rating is, in my opinion, a must for outdoor electricals.

What is an IP rating?

First off, it’s nothing to do with your internet provider!

IP stand for Ingress Protection, and it’s important if you’re using electrical equipment in the garden.

It’s usually displayed as a pair of numbers to tell you how much protection an appliance has. The first number is a code for solid bodies, the second is a code for water resistance. The 15-metre lead above is rated IP44. This means it’s protected against solid foreign bodies larger than 1mm diameter, and against splashing water.

In other words, don’t put it in the sandpit or in the pond and it should be fine.

(Some items have an optional letter after the 2-digit IP code, but we’re not worried about that here. To find out more about IP ratings, Schneider Electric‘s website has a more detailed description.)

This is important if you’re using electrical items outside – we vacuumed the shed the other day! – or even running temporary power to outbuildings such as sheds.

How else can I protect myself in the garden?

RCDs, also known as Residual Current Devices, cut off the electrical supply when they detect a fault. There are several different types:

  • Fixed RCDs – installed in the fusebox, and can protect a circuit or the whole house.
  • Socket-outlet RCDs – built into the wall socket, and only protect items plugged into that socket.
  • Portable RCDs – can be plugged into any socket. Only protect a single appliance.

Electrical Safety First’s website states:

We’ve found that fixed RCDs are about 97% reliable. This improves if they are tested regularly. If you have fixed RCD protection, it will reduce the risk of electric shock to you and your family. It can also protect your home against the risk of fire caused by faulty wiring or appliances.

Remember – Although RCD protection reduces the risk of death or injury from electric shock it does not reduce the need to be careful.

Anything else to look out for?

Using IP rated equipment, plugged into an RCD-protected supply, goes a long way towards keeping you protected in your garden.

But there’s always more you can do.

I say it all the time, but check your garden equipment before you use it.

Look out for the following:

  • Damaged power leads
  • Signs of water damage (especially if the garden shed’s been leaking)
  • Indicators of rodent infestation or damage (some rodent damage may not be immediately obvious)
  • Casing damage (the shell on your lawnmower and the guard on the strimmer are there for a reason!)
  • Dirt clogging vents
  • Plug damage

What if something is damaged?

Don’t just put tape over it and carry on using it. Make sure it’s switched off and unplugged.

Power leads can often be cut down past the damaged area to have a new plug fitted. If this can’t be done, arrange for a professional repair or dispose of it and get a replacement.

Don’t know how to fit a plug? Just watch this video!

Dirt can be carefully cleaned off. We occasionally vacuum our powered hand tools!

Items damaged by water or rodents can be checked and repaired by an expert, but it’s often cheaper to replace them.

And if you need any workplace, home or garden related electrical safety advice, drop us an email or give us a call on 07921 845849!

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