How to remove mower clippings safely

Updated May 1, 2024

Safety Watch - Total Landscape Care magazineUnclogging mower clippings results in finger amputation

The accident: A maintenance crew member is mowing a lawn, but after a couple of rows, the grass bag fills up. He releases the drive-clutch lever and flywheel brake lever to stop the engine. With his left hand, he removes the bag and places his right hand into the discharge opening to remove clumps of grass that have built up. As he does that, the mower blades are still turning, and they strike his hand. He sustains lacerations to his index and ring finger, and his middle finger is amputated to the first joint. His co-worker sees the accident and drives him to a nearby medical facility where he is treated for his injuries.

The bottom line: The crew member should have blocked the metal rotary blades on the mower after disengaging the engine to prevent inadvertent movement of the blades. If a mower becomes clogged, the operator should turn off the engine and disconnect the spark plug wire before trying to clear debris from the discharge chute. Here are additional mower safety tips to prevent similar accidents.

  • Never put hands or feet under a running mower.
  • Inspect the mower before beginning work each day. Check for loose or damaged belts, accumulated grass or grease, bent blades and fluid leaks.
  • Ensure the operator-presence control is working properly. It should shut off automatically when the handle is released on a walk-behind or if you leave the seat on a ride-on mower.
  • Don’t mow with hands and/or feet off of the equipment.
  • Never use a mower without all of the shields and guards in place.
  • Inspect the area and remove any debris before mowing.
  • Don’t dismount from a running machine.
  • If using a walk-behind, always push the mower – never pull – to keep it from running over your feet.
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