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Lawn Mower Safety

OK - It is Sunday, Spring is right around the corner... Lawns and Lawn Mowers on on many minds.

While many of our readers aren't thinking about the safety concerns of lawn mowing - the should.

We thought we'd take this lazy Sunday to share our lawn mower safety program, While intended for businesses, the principles apply to anyone use or near a mower.

And you think gardening is tranquil? Whether you are a professional landscaper or a do it yourself homeowner, our Landscaper First Aid Kit, covers any type of ailment you may encounter outside: Insect stings, eye irritations, sprains and minor cuts. The tranquility will end the first time you touch a prickly bush, get stung by a bee, touch poison ivy, or just get something in your eye. Even simple lawn mowing or edging, you can get nicked up, pull a back muscle or step on a sprinkler hole. No matter what you do, keeping the Landscaper Kit nearby will ensure that you will be able to try and get back to your "tranquility."

Only power lawnmowers of the walk-behind, riding-rotary, and reel power lawnmowers designed for sale to the general public shall and meeting the design specifications in “American National Standard Safety Specifications for Power Lawnmowers,” ANSI B71.1-X1968, shall be purchased and operated by the Company. Riding mower and commercial mower safety training is covered in another lesson.

Not everyone knows how to operate a mower safely. In fact, what most people view as common sense can lead to accidents later. Although accidents are less for mowers than some other areas, a number of injuries, even death, may occur if safety practices are ignored or abused. The purpose of this training is to help you become a SAFE mower operator.


Certain terminology must be mastered in order to grasp the key concepts of mower safety. These terms will be used throughout this training program.

Power Take Off or PTO is the area of the machine where rotating torque is directly transferred to another machine or tool. In the mower case, the rotating torque is used to turn the mower blades.

Roll Over Protection System or ROPS is attached to some vehicle frames to help prevent the vehicle from upsetting more than 90 degrees, and prevent the occupant from being crushed if an upset does occur.

Deadman Control is a device that will automatically turn the machine off if the operator should leave the driver's seat for any reason. It may also be used in the case of an equipment malfunction to turn the machine off.

mower-2Pre-Operation Procedures

Following safe Pre-Operation procedures is just as important as operating a mower safely. If problems can be identified before stepping into the driver's seat, needless accidents can be prevented and the equipment will remain properly maintained.

Pre-Operation procedures can be broken down into three areas. These are:

  1. Guidelines for getting familiar with your equipment
    2. Using a safety checklist
    3. Personal protective equipment

Guidelines - When it comes to getting started with mower operation and safety, use the following guidelines to get familiar with your equipment:

  1. Read the operators manual first.
  2. Make all necessary adjustments before turning on the machine.
  3. Observe and question a skilled operator until comfortable with procedures.
  4. Practice operating in an open area first.

Safety Checklist- In order to ensure safe operation of mowers, the following checklist should be adhered to:

  1. Make sure all protective guards are in place. Never remove guards.
  2. Determine that steering is responsive prior to beginning a job.
  3. Test the brakes.
  4. Clean the steps and operating platform to prevent slipping.
  5. Ensure that tires are properly inflated.
  6. Check mower hardware for correct tightness of bolts.
  7. Ensure a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign is installed and visible.
  8. Ensure flashing warning lights are present and operating when traveling on roadways.

Once installed, never remove guards, lights, or signs. Ignoring these simple items can cause accidents.

Personal Protective Equipment-The following protective gear is required:

Hearing protection, such as earplugs or muffs, for prolonged noise exposure.

Gloves can't always prevent a finger amputation, but they can guard against cuts, abrasions, chemicals and other skin irritants. Wear gloves that fit and wear the right type of glove for the job.

Long pants shall be worn to protect against hazards such as flying debris, skin irritants and burns from exhaust.

Dust masks will prevent inhalation of dust and other particles in the air. Do not use when working with chemicals, toxic gases, and or when there is an oxygen deficiency.

Safety glasses shall be worn, but give only frontal protection against thrown objects. If you wear glasses ensure they have impact-resistant lenses.

Remember to wear the right type of personal protective equipment for the job, keep the items clean and sanitary, and replace any items that wear out or become broken.

Operating Procedures

In this lesson, you'll learn three kinds of procedures for safely operating mowers:

  1. General Safety Procedures
  2. Operating on Uneven Ground
  3. Avoiding Thrown Object Hazards

General Safety Guidelines-The following general safety procedures may seem like common sense, but they are also the areas most abused by operators and often result in minor or major injuries.

  1. Only the operator is allowed on the equipment. No passengers are allowed!
  2. When leaving the seat, the operator should disengage the PTO, engage the brake, stop the engine, and wait for all parts to stop before dismounting.
  3. The operator should not adjust any mechanism of the equipment while the mower is running, but should follow the above procedures, making sure all parts have stopped moving.
  4. When driving between mowing jobs, crossing a road, path or sidewalk, or when not using the mower the operator should disengage the PTO to stop the mower blade.
  5. Operators should not mow under conditions when traction or stability is questionable. If uncertain, test drive a section with the PTO off.
  6. All power-driven chains, belts, and gears shall be so positioned or otherwise guarded to prevent the operator’s accidental contact therewith, during normal starting, mounting, and operation of the machine.
  7. A shutoff device shall be provided to stop operation of the motor or engine. This device shall require manual and intentional reactivation to restart the motor or engine.
  8. All positions of the operating controls shall be clearly identified.
  9. The words, “Caution. Be sure the operating control(s) is in neutral before starting the engine,” or similar wording shall be clearly visible at an engine starting control point on self-propelled mowers.
  10. The mower blade shall be enclosed except on the bottom and the enclosure shall extend to or below the lowest cutting point of the blade in the lowest blade position.

11.Guards which must be removed to install a catcher assembly  shall comply with the following:

(A) Warning instructions shall be affixed to the mower near the opening stating that the mower shall not be used without either the catcher assembly or the guard in place.

(B) The catcher assembly or the guard shall be shipped and sold as part of the mower.

(C) The instruction manual shall state that the mower shall not be used without either the catcher assembly or the guard in place.

(D) The catcher assembly, when properly and completely installed, shall not create a condition that violates the limits given for the guarded opening.

  1. The word “Caution,” or stronger wording, shall be placed on

the mower at or near each discharge opening.

  1. Blade(s) shall stop rotating from the manufacturer’s specified maximum speed within 5 seconds after declutching, or shutting off power.
  2. There shall be one of the following at all openings in the blade enclosure intended for the discharge of grass:

(A) A minimum unobstructed horizontal distance of 3 inches from the end of the discharge chute to the blade tip circle.

(B) A rigid bar fastened across the discharge opening, secured to prevent removal without the use of tools. The bottom of the bar shall be no higher than the bottom edge of the blade enclosure.

  1. Deadman controls shall automatically interrupt power to a drive when the operator’s actuating force is removed, and may operate in any direction to disengage the drive.

As an operator, if any of the previous 15 items are not complied with or you note any variation that violates any of the previous 15 standards, you are not authorized to operate the equipment until the violation(s) have been corrected

Operating on Uneven Ground

Operating on uneven ground is the number one cause of accidents due to rolling of the machine. Since not all machinery is equipped with ROPS (roll over protection systems), mower operators have been killed and severely injured by improper operation on uneven ground. Even when ROPS is used, operators remain at risk and therefore should evaluate each situation on the safest way to mow.-If an area is too sloped or the ground is deemed too uneven to operate the mower safely, use a weed eater or push mower.

-Before actually mowing on even ground, prepare the machine.

-Lock the differential for better traction on slopes and in slippery places.

-If available, install rear and/or front wheel weights to increase stability, steering, and traction. Refer to the machine's operating manual for installing these.

When mowing on uneven ground-

-Slow down the travel speed so that you can see and react to hazards in your path. Overturns are four times more likely to occur when speed is doubled.

-Be on the alert for holes and ditches covered by grass or debris. -A wheel may drop and cause an overturn.

-Drive up and down a hill, not across.

-Do not stop when going up hill or down hill. If the mower stops going up hill, turn off the PTO and back down slowly.

-Do not try to stabilize the mower by putting your foot on the ground.

If in doubt, do not mow on uneven ground. Saving yourself time by operating in an unsafe situation could cost you life or limb.

Avoiding Thrown Object Hazards

Since most newer model mowers now have optional equipment which catches cut material, it is less important than it once was for operators to be aware of thrown object hazards. However, many mowers without the optional equipment are still in use. This makes it necessary for all operators to be aware of and control for these hazards.

Guidelines for avoiding these hazards include-

-Operators should walk areas where grass and weeds are high enough to hide debris that could be struck and thrown. The area should be closely inspected before mowing and these objects collected.

-Areas with high grass and weeds should be mowed to an intermediate height, inspected a second time, then mowed again to the desired height.

-To avoid hitting people and animals, operators should estimate how far and in what direction objects may be thrown.

-Equipment shields must remain in place and not be removed. The shields help prevent objects from being thrown.

Remember, operators must recognize the throwing capabilities of the equipment being used and follow all guidelines to ensure safety of  people in the vicinity, animals, equipment, and the operator. Also, if in doubt, do not mow on uneven ground or operate equipment with defective components. Saving yourself time by operating unsafe equipment or in an unsafe situation could cost you your life or limb.

Don't be another OSHA statistic--an employee who lost a finger, hand or an arm.


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