Working as a professional horticulturist involves many skills, managing risk is just one of them.
I have always been uneasy about having staff (and others) breathing in the fumes from 2 and 4 stroke engines.
Even well maintained machines give off harmful fumes, which are incompatible with creating a healthy outdoor workplace.
This has led to a complete rethink of my stance with regard to powered garden machinery.
Driven by the risk assessment process, (identifying emissions as a significant risk) one is under an obligation, both legal and moral, to find the most effective way to manage and mitigate the risk.
This process started with the decision to move from conventional 2 and 4 stroke fuels, to using Aspen, an alkylate petrol, which is safer to both the user and environment.
Aspen has many advantages, it does not ‘go off’ in tanks of seldom used machines; and in our experience offers better starting.
It does however also significantly increases cost. It is also supplied in 5l plastic containers, which go against the wider movement to reduce the use of single use plastics.
And after all of the additional expense (and plastic usage) the equipment is still producing harmful emissions, the equipment is still heavy, noisy (requiring the use of ear defenders which are not ideal in warmer weather) and still poses a fire risk when refuelling.
When one adds into this mix of factors the widely expected legislation to limit the use of petrol driven garden equipment over the coming years, it becomes clear that there has to be a better way to power our garden equipment.
Discussing this conundrum with Chris Crowder the Head Gardener at Levens Hall the decision (to move to battery power) seemed even more realistic, as Levens were early adopters of battery technology for their topiary management work.
The mantra of one on charge and one in the machine seems to provide long run time solutions, a safer and cleaner working environment and equally importantly cost savings.
Battery technology seems to offer a huge number of key advantages
- Zero emissions
- Increased user safety
- Easy starting
- Reduced breakdowns
- Reduced maintenance cost
- Reduced weight
- Reduced noise
- Reduced running costs
- Reduced servicing costs
- Reduced total cost of ownership
So, we are on a journey at 4 Seasons, the Social Enterprise that I am proud to be Managing Director of in Hull, to fully embrace this new technology.
But, the key question is, are we there yet?
Is battery technology there yet, can it power professional equipment to be used day in day out.
The answer so far is yes it can.
Indeed I am planning to reduce our carbon footprint further by installing solar panels, meaning our equipment will be running on sunshine…
We have lived for a full year now with Stihl Strimmers and Hedge Trimmers; opting for the Pro Cordless Power System which is ideal for both larger gardens and professional use.
I can report that the tools are as good as the day we purchased them, the battery packs (we operate on three batteries to make sure we always have power) have proved reliable and provide excellent run times which have exceeded our expectations, indeed the thought of going back to our old 4 stroke strimmers, with their many starting foibles is unthinkable, we have got used to the new era of slot in a battery and off you go. No service costs is just an added bonus.
The next step of our journey is to slowly replace all of our equipment with battery technology, so when Stihl offered the chance to put their new RMA 448 TC mower to the test, I was only too delighted to oblige.
The first review will cover unboxing and the first week of battery powered mowing.
There will then be a further ‘six month on – what it’s like to live with’ long term review.
But for now, here is a sneak-peak of Service User John putting the RMA 448 TC through its paces in a clients garden…