Like most homeowners, you likely fire-up the trusty lawnmower every week to help keep your property looking in top shape. You’ve probably been mowing the lawn since you a teenager, and it’s easy to take these powerful machines for granted. Statistics show that thousands of people each year suffer deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken bones, burns, and other injuries due to improper or careless use of lawn mowers.
Whether you use a push or riding mower, there are certain rules that always apply if you’re going to stay safe. Mowing the lawn can actually be a somewhat relaxing and enjoyable task. The last thing you want to do though, is to take too relaxed an approach when it comes to safety precautions. The energy that lawn machines generate is substantial, with an output force equal to a gunshot in many cases. In addition, any wounds sustained typically have dirt and bacteria driven deep into them, which increases the chance of infection. The good thing is that most lawn mower injuries can be prevented if you concentrate on your task and use common sense.
Keeping your lawn machine well-maintained is an important first step in ensuring that its operation runs smoothly and safely.
- Not all lawn mowers are built the same. Be sure to thoroughly read the instruction manual before you start, so that you can familiarize yourself with all of the operating and safety features.
- Ensure that you maintain your machine in compliance with the manufacturer standards. Maintain fluid levels, keep blades sharp, inspect belts and replace when worn. It’s also a good practice to have lawn mowers professionally serviced before you use them for the first time of the season.
- Ensure that the motor is off before attempting any inspection or repair work. Disconnecting the spark plug also helps to avoid any sudden starts in these cases.
- Don’t run the machine in an enclosed space, to avoid any risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
- Never remove safety devices, shields, or guards from your lawn machine. They were installed for a reason.
- To prevent overheating and potential fires, carefully clean debris and grass clippings from the cutting unit, muffler, and engine areas. Be sure that the motor is off and that you use a stick or broom handle rather than your hands or feet.
- When re-fuelling, be sure that the motor is turned off and that the engine has cooled
Given the power that lawnmowers can generate and the speed at which the blades move, it’s always a good plan to add a little personal protection when doing this type of yard work.
- Wear impact resistant safety glasses while using lawn mowers to avoid eye damage due to flying debris. Although clippings are thrown to the side or bagged as you cut, there is still the potential of an object being deflected up or off a structure and towards your face.
- It may seem like common sense, but you should never cut your lawn barefoot or in sandals or flip-flops. Always wear sturdy shoes or boots with non-slip treads.
- Avoid wearing shorts, as your legs can be struck with small rocks or sticks that may fly out at high speed from under the mower deck
- Get into the habit of wearing earplugs or earmuffs to protect your hearing when you cut. Most machines produce a high decibel sound level that can damage hearing over time.
Having a clear understanding of how your particular lawn machine operates is a good start, but there are some basic safety principles that need to be applied no matter what make or model you use.
- Before you get started, inspect the cutting area for any objects that may be run over and could create a hazard. This includes garden hoses, tools, toys, dog bones, rocks, sticks etc.
- Note that children under the age of 12 should never operate a lawnmower, and that they should be at least 16 to operate a riding model
- Keep small children well away from the cutting area
- Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine.
- For added safety, use mowers that have a ‘dead man’ control that stops the machine if the handle is released on a push model, or if you leave the seat suddenly on a riding mower
- Never allow children as passengers on riding mowers
- Mow across slopes with a push mower to avoid having your feet getting caught underneath if you happen to slip
- Mow up and down slopes with a riding mower to prevent the mower from tipping over
- Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary. Be extra cautious for anyone or anything that may be behind you.
- Avoid cutting wet or overly long grass as it will tend to accumulate under the mower deck and could potentially cause the motor to stall. Wet surfaces also increase the risk of slipping whether on foot or riding.
- Be aware of hot engine or exhaust surfaces. One touch on unprotected skin can easily cause a serious burn.
- Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to come to a complete stop before you remove the grass catcher or when you cross gravel paths, roads or other areas
- Never operate a lawnmower if you have been drinking, are using drugs or are feeling sick or drowsy. Operating machinery like this always requires your full attention.
As summer approaches, it’s time to get geared-up for another season of lawn care. Enjoy the sun and fresh air, but remember to use some caution when operating your lawn care machinery.