What is a gardening risk assessment?

A gardener trimming a plant.

On the face of it, gardening seems like a pretty safe profession. However, the fact is no business is risk-free. For this reason, it’s important to consider the various hazards and risks associated with the work you carry out as a self-employed gardener.

From working outdoors in all weather conditions to using power tools on a regular basis, there are a wide range of potential dangers green-fingered professionals need to consider. The best way to do this is by carrying out regular risk assessments.

This guide explains exactly why risk assessments are important for self-employed gardeners. It also outlines some of the most common risks professional gardeners face, and outlines how these risks can be mitigated by taking out small business insurance.

What are self-employed gardener risk assessments?

As a self-employed tradesperson, the responsibility of identifying and avoiding hazards at work falls to you. A tried and tested way of doing this is by performing regular risk assessments. As touched on above, with many potential risks involved in professional gardening, these simple processes can keep employees safe and save your small business a lot of money and time in the long run.

An assessment itself can be done in a few simple steps. Below we run through these steps, with professional gardening in mind.

1. Hazard identification
The first step of any risk assessment involves working out how many ways your business operations could cause harm to yourself, your employees or a member of the public. For example, as a gardener, one hazard your assessment will likely highlight is ‘power tools’.

2. Parties involved identification
After you have identified as many potential hazards as possible, you will need to highlight those at risk from each. For instance, using the power tools example, individuals that should be listed would include ‘employees’ and ‘members of the public’.

3. Risk evaluation and solution implementation
Next, it’s important to explain what solution you plan to put in place to remove this hazard as a potential risk. This can be one of two ways. Firstly, by removing the hazard completely. Or, secondly, by controlling risks through the introduction of controls or specialist safety precautions. For example, by stating that:
- only fully trained employees can use specific power tools
- all equipment needs to be regularly checked and serviced by trained professionals
- the correct personal safety equipment (gloves, eye protection, ear guards, etc.) are worn with specified tools.

4. Future assessment review
Workplaces are constantly evolving. For this reason, the final stage of carrying out a risk assessment is stating when an updated assessment is required. When it comes to a tools and equipment section of an assessment, this could include a clause that states a new assessment will need to be carried out if/when new tools are acquired.

Why are risk assessments important?

Risk assessments are an essential part of running any business. This is because they work to ensure any work you do, or activities/events that take place on the job, happen as safely as possible. Risk assessments work to minimise potential hazards, which in turn mitigate risks that otherwise could cause harm or damage to a selection of individuals and/or their property.

Risk assessments are also important from a legal point of view. Any business with five full-time employees or more are required to carry out and produce a formally written risk assessment. This should then form your business’ health and safety policy, which in turn should shape employee training. Self-employed gardeners with fewer than five employees are not legally required to produce a written risk assessment. However, it is still a recommended good practice to keep your business, its staff, and any relevant third parties protected.

Common hazards for gardeners

Below we take a look at five common hazards professional gardeners should be aware of. If you are a self-employed gardener looking to produce a risk assessment for the first time, these areas can give you an idea of what to include.

Slips, tips and falls

Regardless of occupation, slips, trips and falls are the most common type of workplace injury. Professional gardening is certainly no exception to this. From working in wet and slippery weather conditions (and on a range of uneven surfaces) to having an array of loose cords from power tools around you while you work, the occasional slip, trip or fall is an almost unavoidable part of being a gardener. However, many of these accidents can be prevented.

A slips, tips and falls section of a risk assessment can help you highlight potential causes of this kind of accident and put preventative measures in place. This could include ensuring all employees wear appropriate footwear for maximum grip and/or using outdoor cable tidies when using power tools. 

Tools and equipment

Specialist tools and equipment are essential for self-employed gardeners. However, from self-propelled lawn mowers and electric chainsaws to telescopic pruning shears and petrol leaf blowers, these commonly used tools can all be potentially hazardous. For this reason, the use of these tools should be included in your business’ risk assessment.

As discussed above, this section of your assessment could specify that employees need to wear the correct safety wear when operating tools. It may also state that employees must undertake specialist training before using certain tools, for example.

Garden chemicals

The use of specialist chemicals is common in the gardening industry. As a self-employed domestic gardener, this can include the likes of chemical weed killers and over the counter pesticides. Although harmless when used correctly, the fact is, chemicals can be potentially hazardous when used without the correct precautions.

When completing a risk assessment, think about the potential consequences of inhaling, ingesting and simply coming into skin contact with each chemical you use. When risks have been highlighted, preventative measures can be outlined. For example, your risk assessment may explain how all employees using any form of garden chemical while working must wear protective clothing, eye protection and a face mask.

Hazardous plants and wildlife

The plants, insects and other wildlife you come into contact with can also represent a potential risk. This can include flora and fungi that can cause allergic reactions on contact, for example. It can also include the potential dangers of the fauna you come across. For instance, common insects that bite and sting, and larger animals, such as rodents and birds, whose faeces can be dangerous if not dealt with properly.

A risk assessment may state that all employees must wear gloves and long clothing while working. It may also recommend that all employees wash exposed skin thoroughly after working.

What insurance do gardeners need?

While risk assessments are a great way of reducing the amount of accidents in the workplace, it’s impossible to prevent accidents completely. This is why self-employed tradespeople, like gardeners, should seriously consider taking out business insurance.

There are three main types of cover all self-employed gardeners need to consider. Firstly, there’s employers’ liability insurance. This is the only type of insurance that is a legal requirement (if you hire any staff). Employers’ liability insurance financially protects your business in the event any employee becomes ill or injured while working for you.

The second type of cover worth considering is public liability insurance. These policies financially protect you in the event you, a staff member, or a member of the public is injured as a result of your work. It also covers you in the event your work causes damage to the property of an employee or a member of the public.

Finally, tools and equipment insurance is popular among self-employed gardeners. As the name suggests, these policies financially protect your business should your tools and/or equipment become lost, damaged or stolen. Payouts can be used for replacements of tools and equipment.

Here at Markel Direct, our self-employed gardeners’ insurance can be tailored to best suit your needs. This means we allow you to build your own policy, made up of different types of cover. These custom policies start from £8 a month (quote based on a gardener requiring £1 million of public liability insurance).

Business insurance from £5 a month