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Safety First When Using an Electric Hedge Trimmer

Updated on August 17, 2014

An electric hedge trimmer is one of the simplest yard tools to operate. Blade, branch, cut. But if you aren't careful (and I haven't been at times), that can become blade, cord (or finger!), cut.

So how to stay safe while trimming the hedges? It's easy to say "read the manual" and use some common sense. And really, that is what you need to do. Staying safe is serious work, but it is pretty common sense. But if you've never used an electric hedge trimmer before, here are some good guidelines to follow.

Protect those ears

Now, my electric hedge trimmer isn't really that loud. But trimming my hedges - especially since I tend to let them grow wildly before I get around to the job - takes quite a while. Ear protection becomes important when operating loud equipment because you'd like to still be able to hear your spouse when you get done. (Or not, up to you!)

Protection ranges from simple ear plugs to the big airplane handler muffs I have from my woodworking days. Really, almost anything is better than nothing so if you have anything, use it so you can still hear when you're old.

Shield those eyes

It's likely you're going to be out on a nice sunny day doing this particular chore. Which means you're likely to have sunglasses on and that's decent protection. I had more than one thing fly up at my face the last time I trimmed hedges so I was glad to have those sunglasses on at a minimum.

If you really want to feel protected, there are all kinds of eye guards you can look at. Some slide on just like glasses (I have some in that style), others remind you of the eye guards you had to wear in chemistry class. Those protect all the way around, which seems like overkill until something gets under the other kind!

My biggest struggle with eye protection is the fact that I wear glasses. Makes it harder to have more than just the basic protection of my sunglasses. And I'm OK with that level. You might not be. Pick accordingly.

Guard those hands

The vast majority of my hedges are the holly kind with the prickly leaves. (Hate them!) And I do end up having to wipe across the top of the hedge to see where my trim line is, so gloves are a nice addition to the safety gear for that reason.

Add to that the fact that working in the hot sun, your hands get sweaty, things get slippery, bad things happen. Gloves give you that added margin of safety in handling the electric hedge trimmer. I work my leather gardening gloves, nothing special or heavy duty to them, and that's pretty sufficient. You might want something better (or worse).


Drive carefully

My electric hedge trimmer allows me to lock it in an "on" setting, which leads to the temptation to swipe the bushes with the trimmer with one hand and brush away trimmings with the other. Not safe. At all. Ever.

That is when things like accidentally bringing hand and blade together happen. Or the blade dropping down to your side to meet your let. Not good. The openings in my electric trimmer are big enough to get a finger in there, so I try to remember to keep both hands on the wheel anytime the hedge trimmer is running. Hard to remember sometimes, though. (Bad Susan!)

Watch the cord

Electric hedge trimmers have one big downside and that's the extension cord dragging along behind you. First time I ever used one, I cut through the cord because I wasn't paying very close attention to it. Got a tiny shock, nothing horrible, but not fun either. The biggest pain was having to get a new cord to finish the job!

Now when I'm out there trimming, I keep the cord draped from the trimmer on my right side around my neck and down my left side. Yes, it's annoying, but so is cutting the cord. Draping it keeps the cord behind the trimmer at all times without me having to think about it every single minute.

I look like a baggage handler!
I look like a baggage handler!

Cover your skin

Again, probably going to be a sunny day for this kind of task, so be mindful of your need for sunscreen and/or a hat. My nose burns very easily, so I go out slathered all over and wear a hat. Add to that the fact that mosquitoes love me, so I'm also covered in bug spray. We have a strain of mosquito around here that's out even in the middle of the day and I am their favorite food. Your mileage may vary on both these point.

Since I do have prickly bushes to deal with, I often wear a long-sleeved shirt if I can stand it in the heat. Cuts down on the scratches, pokes and scrapes up and down my arms by the end of the job.

Stay Safe!

Best of luck to you if you're out to start your first hedge trimming job. May you always stay safe while wielding an electric hedge trimmer around the yard!


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    • SusanVillasLewis profile image

      SusanVillasLewis 5 years ago from Texas

      Great tip about the cords. Given the colors you can get electrical and duct tape in now, it would probably be worth it to wrap the cord to change the color and make it more visible.

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

      Hi Susan, glad to see you are a safe "driver" with the trimmer!

      Another couple of tips when using one of these garden power tools.

      If your breaker box isn't fitted with a GFI/RCD, use one of the adapter types which plug into a socket outlet and then plug the trimmer into this. Even if one is fitted at the breaker box, there is no harm buying one of these to act as a backup. It will cut the power if you cut through the cable.

      Another thing, not all power cords on garden tools are brightly colored and this is something to look out for when purchasing a tool. I had a chainsaw once with a black flex and in bad light conditions or if the flex was entangled in branches, it could have been possible to cut through it. Luckily I didn't and kept it behind me at all times! Possibly brightly colored flexes are mandatory by now. Black and Decker for one seem to use brightly colored cables on their tools.

    • Janet21 profile image

      Janet21 7 years ago from New York

      It was either you or the hedges..but someone was going down!

    • SusanVillasLewis profile image

      SusanVillasLewis 7 years ago from Texas

      Ha! You should have seen the state of my hedges the first time I used my trimmer. They were almost as tall as the house. It was war! (I now have Bugs Bunny in my head - "But of course, you know, this means war." :-)

    • Janet21 profile image

      Janet21 7 years ago from New York

      Love the photo Susan! You look like you are going into combat. lol Great safety tips. :)