garden tiller ear defenders / ear protection PPE

Essential Protective Wear When Operating A Garden Tiller/Rotavator: PPE checklist

Powered garden tillers and cultivators are great, they save you a lot of effort and produce evenly tilled soil in less than half the time you would with a spade or a fork. They are hazardous machines and should be handled with care. To lessen the risk to the operator they should wear suitable PPE Personal Protective Equipment. This brief article presents a checklist for you to refer to before you begin work with your tiller.

What PPE equipment do I need before operating a tiller and why

Safety boots

It is important to wear a pair of safety boots or safety wellies because your feet will be in close proximity to the blades of the tiller. Footwear which is made of a strong material will be more able to protect your feet from injury either from the blade of the tiller or from a stray stone projected from the tiller’s blades. Safety boots have a steel toe cap fitted underneath the front of the boots which provides excellent protection for the front of your feet. Safety boots are one of the most important items of PPE for operating a tiller.

Carharrt Steel Toe Workboots

Strong work trousers

A pair of trousers made from a strong material to cover your legs are important because they will protect your skin from stones and roots which can be thrown from the revolving blades. Sometimes thorny stems can get wrapped around the blades causing them to flail outwards towards your legs which if not suitably covered will result in them being badly scratched or cut. This is especially true if the soil you are tilling/ cultivating has never been tilled before – I have found barbed wire and broken shards of glass in some plots I have tilled – not something you would want coming in contact with bare skin.

Sleeve covering shirt or top

The tiller operator should wear a top with sleeves for the same reason as the work trousers above. You don’t want to have bare skin exposed when operating a tiller because of what the tiller blades might dig up or throw out. Although the top half of your body is further away from the blades than the lower half – you still can get objects being thrown out or wrapped around which can scratch or cut your bare skin.

Safety glasses/face visor

Wearing a pair of safety glasses or a clear face visor is another important safety item. Soil, stones, and debris in the ground are mixed around and around at a fast pace and can be thrown in any direction. Safety wear for your eyes is inexpensive and can prevent life-changing issues with your eyesight. When choosing safety glasses try to get the wrap-around type or with side protection. I prefer to wear the glasses as they feel less clumsy than a full-face visor. I have also found I keep better care of one good pair rather than buying a multipack of cheap glasses.

Meigix Safety Glasses- Anti Scratch, Anti-fog lens

Ear defenders

Tillers are noisy machines – especially engine-driven models. Usually, you won’t notice the noise being an issue until you turn the tiller off- then the ringing continues in your ears. After you have made all your tiller’s safety checks and you are about to begin work, the second last thing safety item to put on is your ear defenders or earplugs. Always leave your work gloves until last so you can put on your eye protection and ear protection with ungloved hands – keeping them clean and better positioned.

3M Peltor 27dB Ear Protection

Strong gloves

The last item on the list is the work gloves. A good pair of work gloves will protect your hands from shards of glass, sharp wire, and stones and most importantly from being cut by the tiller blades when you turn it off to remove blockages (always turn the tiller off to work around the blades). When it comes to work gloves there are many different types available. I would advise you to get a pair of snug-fitting waterproof palm and finger-type gloves instead of loose-fitting canvas-type gloves. This is because you’ll have much better feedback of your tillers controls than with loose-fitting thick gloves. This means you can stop or slow down your tiller much faster if you hit an unexpected object than if you were wearing a clumsy pair of thick gloves.

The rubber waterproof palm and fingers on these new type work gloves mean you can grip things much better and you can use them in contact with the wet soil without getting your fingers and hands wet. Wet hands and fingers eventually become cold and then numb.

3M Safety Work Gloves – Smart Touch, Machine washable

Although work gloves are great at protecting your hands, I would still advise caution when digging through the soil with gloved hands – for example, if you lose a bolt or a nut. Broken glass or barbed wire lodged firmly in the soil can still slice through work gloves so be careful.


By providing yourself with the correct PPE you can significantly reduce the risk to yourself when operating your garden tiller. As these PPE items are made to last you can enjoy using them in other garden tasks also for many years to come. I hope you found this article helpful – good luck and happy tilling!