Don’t Cut Corners

Take your time and respect safety features when operating mowers.

By Olivia Grider

The accident: A landscaping crewmember is almost finished for the day when he realizes the discharge chute of the ride-on mower he’s operating is clogged with grass clippings. Earlier in the day, he was surprised to find the mower did not shut off when he left the seat, but he did not tell anyone. Instead of getting off of the mower, he reaches into the chute to dislodge the clippings. The spinning blades contact his hand, causing severe cuts. He loses two fingers.

The bottom line: Lawnmower injuries among landscapers happen more frequently at the end of shifts when they are more likely to be inattentive, tired or in a rush, says Dr. Bruce Kaler, author of Owner’s Manual for Injury Prevention.

This accident could have been prevented if the worker had shut off the mower, dismounted and removed the spark plug wire before clearing the debris. He also should have used a tool or stick to clear the grass clippings.

Many ride-on mowers are equipped with a safety feature that causes them to shut off when sufficient weight is not detected on the seat. “The instant the operator comes off the seat, it keeps the blade from spinning,” says Randy Mansell, risk control consultant with CNA Insurance. The worker should have notified a supervisor this safety feature was not functioning.

Lawnmower-related accidents claimed the lives of 133 people and injured more than 77,000 in 2006, according to the Statistical Assessment Service, an affiliate of George Mason University.

Reduce the Risks

• Avoid operating ride-on mowers near water, retaining walls, drop-offs or unstable soil.

• Before starting the mower, inspect the area to be mowed. Remove objects that could become projectiles and note potential hazards such as holes.

• Never pull or lift up a walk-behind mower while operating.

• Drive up and down slopes – not across – when operating a ride-on mower. Do the opposite when using a walk-behind mower. Never operate a riding mower on slopes greater than 15 degrees.

• Do not remove or bypass any safety guard, control or shut-off mechanism.

• Refuel and make mower adjustments only when the mower’s engine is off and cool.

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