How do I Trim or Prune a Hedge Safely?

As many are gardeners are currently contemplating the first or second hedge trim of the season, here are a few important tips…
Hedge trimming should be a relaxing, satisfying job both in itself and for the gratification of stepping back an admiring one’s handiwork. It certainly shouldn’t be dangerous, though a surprising number of completely avoidable accidents do occur. So, if you don’t want to join hapless gardeners at A&E, follow these simple guidelines and all will be well.
• Never use trimmers that are, or feel, too heavy for you to use with ease
• Never trim when it is raining or the hedge and/or surroundings are wet
• Never attempt hedge trimming when you feel tired, unwell or have been drinking!
• Ensure that children are kept well away while you are trimming and, if children are present, always disconnect the trimmer if you leave the immediate area
• Always wear gloves, protective goggles and stout, grippy footwear
• Never carry or store a trimmer without its protective sheath
• If you are using a mains powered trimmer:
▫ Always use a residual current device (RCD) plug or adaptor to protect you from an electric shock should you accidentally sever the cable, (unless your house is protected by an RCD)
▫ Ensure your extension cable is long enough to do the job without having to be stretched
▫ Keep the cable over your shoulder so it hangs behind you or attach it to your belt
▫ Before and after use, carefully check the cable for damage to the outer layer
• If you have bought a secondhand trimmer, have it thoroughly and professionally checked before using it for the first time
• Look after your trimmer – when you have finished and turned it off / disconnected it, carefully wipe the blade clean, brush off dirt and sawdust and spray the blade with a light oil (e.g. WD40) before replacing it in its protective sheath. Always coil the cable before storing
• Trimming a tall hedge:
▫ The safest and easiest way to cut the top of a hedge is from a solid platform – you should be able to cut the top of the hedge from waist height
▫ Never lean your ladder against the hedge
▫ If you are using a step ladder, have someone hold it while you are working
▫ If you have a considerable run of tall hedges, invest in a purpose-made hedge-cutting platform with a wide base suitable for non-level ground and/or a long-reach hedge trimmer with telescopic handles and a blade that can be angled
And from March to August, please check for nesting birds first – if you have any, the law says you can’t disturb them.