A qualified nurse, author and first aid trainer with over 30 years’ healthcare and teaching experience

The bank holidays in May are the traditional time to undertake longer home or garden improvement projects. 

You have the extra day, the weather is better and there is work to be done to ensure your home – and in particular – your garden, can be enjoyed over the coming summer months.

The queues for DIY stores are often longer on these extra holidays – but sadly it seems, so are the queues for A&E as hospitals see a marked rise in DIY and gardening injuries on bank holidays.

According to the NHS, these figures are continuing to rise, year on year, perhaps as people are inspired by home improvement TV shows such as 60 Minute Makeover, DIY SOS and Grand Designs.

In fact, when it comes to hospital admissions for DIY and gardening injuries, 58% of these injuries took place between the months of April and September.

Furthermore, figures from the Royal College of Surgeons suggest that over the past three years, there have been a staggering 25,700 hospital admissions for DIY-related and gardening accidents.

The NHS prepares

The NHS national clinical advisor for A&E, Dr Cliff Mann, urged people to take care when doing DIY, but offered reassurance that should an accident happen, the NHS was increasingly its capacity to meet the increased bank holiday need.

Dr Mann said:

“While there are plenty of ways to come a cropper with your DIY, fortunately there are also plenty of places to get help from the NHS this bank holiday. Urgent treatment centres can provide convenient access to care for anyone who needs it, while tens of thousands more appointments will be available in GP practices over the long weekend than last Easter, while High Street pharmacists can also offer expert help as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.’’

Figures for A&E

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) statistics also make sobering reading for those hoping to do a bit of bank holiday DIY.

In England in 2016-17:

  • 3,391 people needed hospital treatment following accidents involving “non-powered” hand tools
  • 522 people were admitted to hospital after being hurt by lawnmowers
  • 4,648 hospital admissions for people injured in accidents involving other powered hand tools and household machinery


Sadly, six per cent of those admitted to hospital were children under the age of 18. Children should be closely supervised to avoid accidents whether they are directly involved in the DIY projects or not.

Common accidents

Catching fingers on hedge trimmers and getting infections after being pricked by rose thorns are common injuries at this time of year.

The biggest culprit

The top gardening incident however involved the lawnmower – often while people were cleaning the blades. The age group most likely to be hurt by the lawnmower were the middle-aged and older people, with 58% of admissions being in the 40-74 year-old-age group.

Gender bias

Additionally, figures released by the Royal College of Surgeons show that of the accidents involving hand tools, lawnmowers and other household machines, 90% of them involved men.

Figures from the NHS support this view. In the 12 months to March 2019 there were 7,400 instances when men sought care from a consultant after being injured by a lawnmower or tool, compared with fewer than 1,200 women.

During the same period of time, consultants had to help 5,000 men who had fallen from a ladder compared to just 1,260 cases of women needing help as a consequence of ladder-related accidents.

General guidance and precautionary measures for DIY and gardening

In order to minimise the risk of accidents occurring, follow our general guidance to staying safe when doing DIY and gardening.

  • Children should be safely supervised at all times, especially with tools around
  • Pets should be kept well away from where you are working
  • Tools, paint and chemicals should be kept out of the reach of children and pets
  • Household chemicals should be kept in their original containers and never stored in unmarked containers where they could be mistaken for juice etc
  • Disconnect all electrical appliances and tools before repairing or cleaning them or even leaving them for a short while in case of inquisitive children who like to copy their parents
  • If machinery isn’t working, do disconnect it before trying to investigate the problem
  • Refrain from using machinery or electrical equipment if you are drowsy from a nap, drowsy from medication or have drunk alcohol
  • When using tools, materials – especially hazardous ones – or products do follow the instructions carefully.
  • If using power tools, such as electric saws or hedge trimmers, use an RCD (residual current device) if your home is not already wired with one
  • Do use protective gloves, helmets or goggles if appropriate
  • Plan out your projects leaving plenty of time so you are not rushing to finish them
  • Avoid falls from height by checking a ladder’s condition before use and setting it firmly on the ground before climbing it
  • Tidy up at the end of your task
  • If you are not confident, pay someone else to do it!

If an accident does happen here are your NHS options

Urgent treatment centres such as A&E can provide emergency access to care for anyone who needs it.

GP practices and high street pharmacists can also offer expert help as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

If you are unsure where to turn advice is available online and over the phone from the NHS 111 service.

Our article on how to help someone who is seriously bleeding can be read here:

Our article on bumps, grazes and splinters can be read here: https://firstaidforlife.org.uk/bumps-bruises/

Our free eBook 7 Vital first aid skills every family should know can be downloaded here: https://firstaidforlife.org.uk/6-vital-first-aid-skills-every-family-know/

Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.


Emma Hammett

Emma Hammett is a qualified nurse, author and first aid trainer with over 30 years’ healthcare and teaching experience. Emma is the Founder of three multi-award-winning businesses; First Aid for Life, Onlinefirstaid.com, First Aid for Pets and her social cause StaySafe.support. She has published multiple books and is an acknowledged first aid expert and authority on accident prevention, health and first aid. Emma writes for numerous online and print publications and regularly features in the press, on the radio and on TV. She is the first aid expert for the British Dental Journal, British Journal of School Nursing, the Mail online and Talk Radio with Eamonn Holmes. She is a member of the Guild of Health Writers and Guild of Nurses.

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