A well-kept, lush, green, evenly cut lawn is the American homeowner’s dream. Some achieve this goal better than others do, but it is the dream nevertheless. A part of this dream is a well-run lawnmower to keep grass clipped neatly to an even height.
Unfortunately, striving for that well-kept lawn is sometimes the source of serious injuries. Each year, hospital emergency rooms across the United States treat more than 60,000 people who have been injured while taking care of lawns. Most of those injuries are in young people under 16 years old and most often they are caused by user error — not equipment malfunctions.
Safety guidelines recommend that children younger than 12 years old not operate power equipment. It isn’t just a matter of mental ability. Body size, coordination, strength, experience and the maturity to really understand the ramifications affect a youngster’s ability to manipulate the machinery.
Adults can also be injured or cause injury using power equipment. Review the operator’s manual for safety instructions.
Maintain the mower to keep it in excellent running condition. Check for worn or loose tires, belts, guards and covers. Sharpen mower blades periodically so they will cut the grass cleanly and operate efficiently.
Dress for safety. Wear safety glasses, long pants, closed-toe shoes and avoid loose clothing that could get caught in machinery or fetter personal movement.
Clear the lawn area of objects or debris before mowing. Objects like rocks, stumps, sticks and toys can become dangerous projectiles. If a mower has an uncovered discharge chute, direct it away from people, animals, windows or other fragile property since injuries from objects launched by blades cause many accidents. Do not allow children to play near operating mowers.
Leave mower shields and guards in place for personal protection. Never put hands or other objects in the discharge chute or under the deck while the mower is running.
Know how to turn off the mower in an emergency. Do not bypass safety switches or levers and do not disable controls that power or stop blade rotation. If you are running an older mower without such safety equipment, replace it with a newer model that has these features.
Never leave a running mower unattended. Although some commercial mowers have a switch that disengages the blade while the engine is running, take special care when removing the bag to empty clippings or doing other activities near the mower while it is running.
Avoid mowing on inclines with wet slippery grass. Wait until grass is dry and mow crosswise with a walk-behind mower or up and down the slope on a riding mower.
Never take passengers on riding mowers. Take special care when backing a riding mower to make sure no one or nothing has come up behind you. Many new mowers disengage when riding in reverse to stop the blades.
Mowers can be very helpful in cutting weeds. Be careful when running it over gravel or other debris-covered surfaces. When moving a mower over a gravel area, turn off the mower or disengage the blade and push it.
Cool the engine of a fuel-powered mower before adding gasoline or working on the engine. Never put fuel in a running mower and never put it in while smoking or near sparks or flames. Allow fuel-powered mowers to cool before adding fuel or working on the engine.
Turn off mowers before making adjustments or repairs and always be sure all moving parts have stopped. Disconnect the spark plug before attempting repairs or blade adjustments on gasoline-powered equipment.
If you are using an electric lawnmower, mow when the grass is dry to reduce the chance of electrical shock.
Don’t be in too big of a hurry when mowing the lawn. People who mow too quickly are creating unnecessary risks. Be cautious to protect yourself and others.