First posted on Landscape Juice in March 2008

I have just read, with interest, the article by James Alexander-Sinclair on the BBC Gardeners World Blog, about how music can be an essential part of the working day.

Music does help some to relax into the task you are doing. Music is also inspirational and I am sure can help most creative people take their work to another level.

However, as an employer, I would be now more than concerned at how music could lead to staff to become pre-occupied and not concentrate on their work, leading to serious accidents - even death!. 

Personally, I prefer silence when I am carrying out a manual task. It helps me stay focussed on what I am doing.

But, the biggest risk when listening to music in the landscape gardening and gardening world is safety.

Mowing is a very therapeutic job if you like grass, but otherwise is can be mundane, drawn out and pretty heavy going, especially if you do it all day.

However, being able to hear the sound of the engine is essential. It not only means you can react quickly when there is a fault with the engine itself, but you can also hear the change in tone when the underneath becomes clogged with damp grass.

An operator is also able to determine if they have hit debris such as stones or wood better and take the appropriate steps.

I have witnessed landscapers who are using or driving machinery wearing earpieces with music that is clearly audible to anyone in the vicinity.

This is an obvious safety risk to them and, I not only think it should be discouraged, but should be banned under health and safety legislation.

Being unable to hear your co-workers, the every day sounds of other machinery operating around you, with the constant distraction of thumping music in your head, is not conducive to a productive and safe working environment.

I full appreciate having a small transistor radio in the potting shed or on a patio wall whilst pointing. In these surroundings it is part of the all-round sound but, ear pieces tend to block general noise.

If you are operating potentially dangerous machinery, think about your safety and those that are around you and remember, under the health and safety at work act, you have a duty of care to yourself and those that work with you.

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  • I never listen to music whilst working, I like to hear the machines in case of faults.

    I don't often have music on whilst driving either as the same applies to hearing the engine of the van.

    I do put the cd on when i'm parked up for a break though.


  • I am pretty sure it is already illegal to use ear phones when riding a bike or driving a car, having said that hands free kits are aloud??

    I don't think legislation to make it illegal is needed or wanted, yet again the nanny state strikes. We are all adults, if you are stupid enough to have music so loud you can't hear yourself think, well more fool you, i personally can't see the problem with having music at a reasonable volume while you work. And I don't think we need some bute in a suite, to tell us how loud is acceptable.
  • PRO

    Im with you Andy, although I do have the radio on whilst driving but never really loud.

    Just for the record though, I dont allow my staff to listen to music whilst working, ear plugged or otherwise and I would instantly sack any member of staff who defied me on this. Im a pretty reasonable boss, but listening to music whilst operating machinery is a defo no no no no.

    andy@ Doughty Garden Maintenance said:

    I never listen to music whilst working, I like to hear the machines in case of faults.

    I don't often have music on whilst driving either as the same applies to hearing the engine of the van.

    I do put the cd on when i'm parked up for a break though.


  • Risk Assessment means what it says. You assess the risks, make your judgements and take the appropriate actions. Personally I think that the additional risks involved in using headphones while cutting grass for example, are so minimal, I will continue enjoy music and chat etc on my radio while working a long day.

  • quite happy to enjoy the peace and listen to what the birds are up to unless im mowing or strimming or something and it hasnt really occurred to me to listen to music..

  • think i'll take my chances, it's all a bit 'what if' really isn't it?

    my radio helps me focus, motivates me and rarely slows me down - it's a perk of being self employed :)

    i'd be more worried about the long term hearing damage if someone is using music to the level phil has witnessed

    of course having said that if i'm using noisy equipment then i can't hear the radio anyway and i'm don't use earbuds as they may damage my hearing at the level needed to overcome power tools (even though i always wear a top quality set of ear defenders)

    still, as was pointed out, we (maybe not our staff) are all adults and can make our own choise

  • Never listen to radio at work, unless on a break, if I was working in my own garden it's different but I think when I'm working I like to focus on the job with little distractions, plus I love to hear the birds singing.

    • You don't hear too many birds when you are walking behind a throbbing Briggs and Stratton for 6 hours a day Peter - I prefer a bit of music or chat.

  • PRO

    Just noticed Phil your post was first posted March 2008 , Around that era i can distinctly remember timing my greenhouse duties around gardeners question time and the archers coming on the radio we had in there , The plants may have benefited from the music too but never sure about this theory .

    One day back then i was out in the field on the ride on mower   on terrain i knew like the back of my hand and using a machine i was joined to the hip ( or axle ) with and  i would happily mow away with my walkman on full blast until one fateful day i had no idea a thunderstorm was brewing above my head until i noticed fork lightening and i was a sitting duck potentially out in an exposed field , luckily i am still here to tell the tale but i never wore my headphones or even ear defenders again after that . 

    One annoying thing though about using any machinery outdoors you can never hear your mobile phone ring and it could be an important call or a potential customer , a lost opportunity .

    • PRO

      Missing calls was a bug bear of mine aswell. I started by just wearing a bluetooth ear peace which rang in the ear when a call or text or email came in. Worked very well and it evolved into playing music aswell

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