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How can I make my lawnmower safe?

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Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat more than 60,000 individuals with lawn care-related injuries. A majority of the injuries occur in young people under the age of 16 and are primarily attributed to unsafe practices rather than equipment malfunctions.

Safety guidelines recommend that children under the age of 12 not operate power equipment. A person's body size, strength, coordination, experience and maturity affect his or her ability to safely operate a lawnmower. To improve the safety of mowing equipment for young people as well as adults, consider the following tips.

· Review the operator's manual and the manufacturer's recommendations for safe operation. Perform regular maintenance on your mower as outlined in the operator's manual. Prior to using your mower, check for worn or loose tires, belts, guards and covers. The mower blade(s) should be sharpened periodically to improve quality of cut and maintain operating efficiency.

· Always wear safety glasses, snug fitting clothes, long pants and work shoes when mowing. In some instances hearing protection is also necessary. Mower shields and guards must remain in place and operational for personal protection. Know how to turn off the lawnmower in an emergency. Never bypass safety kill switches or levers or disable controls that stop blade rotation. Older mowers without safety equipment should be replaced with newer models with modern safety features.

· Do not place hands or other objects in the discharge chute or under the deck while mower is operating. Remove objects and debris from the area prior to mowing. Objects such as rocks, stumps and sticks easily become dangerous projectiles. If a mower has an open discharge chute, direct it away from people, animals or fragile property since injuries from objects launched by mower blades account for many accidents. Do not operate mowing equipment around children.

· Never leave a running mower unattended. Larger commercial mowers sometimes allow the mowing blade to be disengaged while the engine is running. If operating this type of mower, take special care when removing the bag to empty clippings or when performing other activities near the mower when the engine is running.

· Accidents frequently occur when mowers are operated on inclines with wet, slippery grass. To avoid this, wait until the grass on the incline is dry, then mow across the slope with a walk-behind mower or up and down the slope with a riding mower. Never allow passengers on riding mowers.

· Do not use the self-propelling power of a mower to transport it over a gravel road or other debris-covered surface. Disengage the blade or turn the mower off and push it rather than mowing over a dangerous surface.

· Allow fuel-powered mowers to cool before adding fuel or working on the engine. Do not add fuel while the mower is running and do not mow or add fuel while smoking. When turning power equipment off, allow all rotating parts to stop before attempting repair or adjustment. Always remove the spark plug before attempting repairs or blade adjustment on gasoline powered equipment. If using an AC electric powered mower, mow when the grass is dry to reduce the chance of electrical shock. Also take special care to prevent mowing over electrical power cords.

· As with all power tools, do not hurry when operating. People who mow at excessive speeds are risking injury and death. Work cautiously to protect yourself and others. For additional information related to lawnmower safety and equipment, visit http://users.1st.net/mkw94/safety.htm, http://www.shrinershq.org/Prevention/mower6-98.html or http://www.whatsthebest-lawnmower.com/safety.shtml.

Posted on 18 Jun 2004

Richard Beard
Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist

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