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Mower

Safety Considerations When Using Lawn-Care Equipment

Workers operating riding mowers face serious safety issues. Their employers need to make sure the equipment in use is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Employers must make sure that workers are trained to avoid hazardous surroundings. Finally, the employer must ensure that mowing operations are performed safely.

Employers Must Ensure Equipment Safety

Use and maintain all available safety equipment. Pay attention to the following points:

  • Some riding mowers are designed by their manufacturer to be equipped with a roll-over protective system (ROPS). The ROPS can either be standard or optional equipment.

  • If the mower a worker will be using does not have a ROPS, look for unused bolt holes or brackets near the seat or frame to see if the mower has the capacity to be equipped with a ROPS. Do not operate any mower that was intended to be equipped with a ROPS without the ROPS in place. In many cases, retrofit kits are available. Contact the manufacturer to see if there is a kit for the mower you are using.

  • Mowers with a ROPS should also be equipped with seat belts. Provide and use approved seat belt assemblies on all riding lawn mowers on which a ROPS has been installed.

  • Where vertical clearance does not allow for a ROPS to be in the raised position, the ROPS may be temporarily placed in the lowered position. Also, workers should not wear a seat belt while operating a mower with the ROPS in the lowered position. Return the ROPS to the raised position as soon as the mower is in an area where the vertical clearance allows its use and reconnect the seat belt.

  • Equip riding mowers with an “operator presence control system”. This system shuts off the blades when the operator dismounts the machine or rises out of the seat.

  • Equip riding mowers with interlocks that ensure the engine cannot start while the mower is in gear or if the blade is engaged. Inspect mowers to ensure the “operator presence control system” and all safety features are always in place and operable.

  • Keep riding mowers in good working order, and inspect them periodically for insecurely or incorrectly attached ROPS and seat belts.

  • Mower operators should use a standard checklist to do a general inspection of the equipment before use. For example, the checklist should include checking tire pressure and check for missing or damaged safety guards.

  • Experienced service personnel should inspect mowers for necessary safety features and overall maintenance at least annually. Only qualified personnel should service and repair riding mowers.

While it is essential to have the proper safety equipment in place on riding mowers, you should think of that as just the beginning of your safety program. 

Determining the Safety of the Surroundings 

Employers should be familiar with the conditions of the terrain on which their mowers are being used. They should ensure their workers take the following precautions:

  • Do not operate mowers on slopes that exceed the “angle limits” specified by the manufacturer. Look for a label on the mower for this information or check the owner’s manual.

  • When the manufacturer’s instructions are not available or do not specify the angle limits for operating on slopes, evaluate the terrain and slope conditions to ensure the mower is operated in a safe manner. Avoid mowing on slopes that exceed 15 degrees if there is no other information available.

  • Use a slope indicator, aka clinometer or inclinometer, if you need one. These are used to determine slope angles and can be attached to equipment or used as an application on a mobile device.  There are also printable versions that can be downloaded online.

  • Always remove the key when you are leaving a mower unattended, but never leave mowers unattended on a slope. After turning off the mower, the operator should set the brake, remove the key, and wait to make sure all moving parts have stopped before leaving the area. The operator should not assume moving parts will stop.

  • Do not operate mowers in areas where the drive wheels are within five feet, as measured from the outside wheel edge, of unprotected edges of retaining walls, embankments, levees, ditches, culverts, excavations, or similar locations that present an overturn or roll-over hazard. Use a string trimmer or push mower in these areas.

  • When it is necessary to operate riding mowers near ponds, creeks, lakes, canals, sloughs, golf course water hazards, or similar bodies of water, evaluate the terrain and any slope conditions. Establish a safety zone to ensure the mower is operated at a safe distance from such hazards. 

Training Workers 

Employers are responsible for providing workers with training before they can operate any lawn mowing/landscaping machinery. Training ensures each operator is competent to operate the machinery safely. Training must be provided in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand. Training should cover topics on the safe operation of specific riding mowers and other equipment that worker will be using. Never assume a worker knows how to use a piece of equipment or take their word for it that they know how to use it - train them and make sure they are competent with operating the equipment. Training topics include:

  • A review of all safety devices to ensure that ROPS, guards, seat belts, and shields are securely in place and properly used.

  • The importance of surveying the terrain and picking up hazards before mowing.

  • How to identify obstacles in the mowing path, such as large immovable rocks, man-made hazards like signs and trash receptacles, tree stumps, etc., and areas where the use of riding mowers is prohibited.

  • Reading and understanding the operations, maintenance, limitations, and warning sections of the operator’s manual.

Speed control, steering, and maneuvering such as:

  • Decrease speed when the mower is traveling down slopes or around sharp corners to prevent tipping

  • Be particularly alert when backing up or while operating in low-light conditions

  • Do not mow from side-to-side when operating mowers on unlevel or sloped ground. Always mow slopes in the up-and-down direction.

  • A review of stability and roll-over hazards associated with operating mowers on surfaces, terrain, or areas that could pose a risk. Locations that present a roll-over risk include loading ramps, wet surfaces, slopes, and areas near drop-offs, retaining walls, embankments, streams, bodies of water, unprotected ditches, culverts, and excavations.

  • Employees should be trained to:

    • Use all required personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times: hearing and head protection, safety glasses, work boots, etc. Avoid wearing jewelry and loose-fitting clothing that could be entangled in moving parts, wear long pants.

    • Never carry passengers. Riding mowers are one-person machines.

    • Always start the mower from the driver’s seat. Never start the machine while standing beside it. Keep both feet on the machine at all times while it is running.

    • Never place the mower in motion until the operator is ready. Putting the mower in gear unintentionally could jerk it forward without warning.

    • Never mount or dismount a mower while it is running, as there may be enough space for the operator’s toes to pass under the housing and be struck by the blade. Properly shut down the mower before dismounting.

    • Never stop or start a riding mower suddenly when it is going up or down hill. Avoid all sudden stops, starts, or turns.

The safe operation of a riding mower is similar to the safe operation of a car/truck – drive defensively and expect the unexpected. Employers should train workers to operate the mower as if there were no ROPS in place. A protective structure is not unlimited in its ability to protect the operator, the best safety guard is using your head and making safe decisions.  

Retraining and evaluation are necessary to ensure workers maintain their competency to operate mowers safely. Provide refresher courses to workers when:

  • An operator has been observed operating a mower in an unsafe manner.

  • An operator has suffered and injury or been involved in a near-miss incident.

  • An operator receives a new job assignment that includes operating a mower or machinery with which the operator is unfamiliar.

  • An operator receives a new job assignment that includes mowing on terrain or surfaces that present unfamiliar hazards.

As an administrator or supervisor, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees know the hazards of the job and how to do the job safely. Remember to properly train and evaluate your workers. 

Lawn Mower & Weed Eater Safety

(based on a Loss Control Bulletin from the American National General Insurance Company)

Operating lawn mowers or weed eaters is a necessity for municipalities.  At the same time, they present certain dangers if the operator doesn’t know how to properly operate them or the proper precautions necessary to protect themselves and the people around their work area.

General Safety Precautions

Prior to operating a mower or weed eater, operators should first read and understand the operator’s manual. This will give them a basic knowledge of how the tool works and proper operating instructions. Operators should also take time to consider the appropriate protective clothing. These items include:

  • Ear and eye protection

  • Gloves to protect hands

  • Thick footwear with good traction (approved work boots is preferred)

  • Long pants and long sleeved shirts that are somewhat tight fitting 

Prior to starting the machine, make sure other people and animals are a safe distance away. Next, make sure there are no sticks, stones, wire, or other objects in the lawn that could become projectiles. Inspect the machine to ensure all of the guards, shields, and belts are in the proper place and in good working condition. Fuel equipment cautiously, and make sure the fuel is stored in an appropriate container away from ignition sources. Never attempt to fuel a weed eater while it is running or still hot (Allow 5 minutes for parts to cool down before refueling.) Remember, no smoking while fueling. Keep all body parts away from exhaust areas to prevent burns. 

If you make any repairs or adjustments, make sure the engine is turned off and pull the sparkplug before you begin. If anyone else will be operating the equipment, make sure they have been properly trained and deemed competent to use the machines. 

Mower Safety Precautions 

There are 4 main types of mower accidents of which operators should be aware: overturns, propelled objects, contact with rotating blades, and running over a victim with a riding mower. To help avoid accidents, there are some simple precautions the operator can take.

  • Before engaging the blade, make sure you know how to operate all aspects of the mower. This may include taking a practice run with the blade disengaged first.

  • Never allow passengers on a riding mower. This is true even for larger commercial riding mowers/tractors.

  • When possible, move forward, not backward. Many new mowers have a safety device that disengages the blade when traveling in reverse. If you go backwards pay special attention to potential hazards such as holes, drop-offs, buildings, and other obstacles in and around the mowing area.

  • Never leave the mower running and unattended.

  • Disengage the blade before getting off the machine. Many new models have safety devices that automatically disengage the blade or shuts off the mower when the operator gets up from the seat. Do not disengage this safety device.

  • Turn the mower off and pull the sparkplug wire prior to repairs or maintenance.

  • When mowing on a slope, use caution, slow down, and avoid making sharp turns. It is best to mow steep slopes up and down rather than across the slope on a riding mower. Use a push mower across slopes, never up and down. Never mow a slope that is so steep your tires and feet have no traction.  Use a weed eater if it is necessary to mow that area.

  • Only operate a riding mower from the driver’s seat. Do not attempt to walk beside or behind it and push over difficult terrain.

Weed Eater Safety Precautions

  • When fueling the weed eater, make sure you have the correct fuel mixture. Most weed eaters take a mixture of fuel and two-cycle engine oil.

  • When you start the weed eater, make sure you have good balance and footing. Hold the machine with two hands, and make sure you are in an open area away from other people.

  • The cutting part of the weed eater should never be raised above waist height.

  • The speed of the string should never be faster than what is required to cut vegetation.

  • Do not operate a weed eater in the immediate vicinity of others; debris can fly over 30 feet from your location. Give at least 50 feet when people or pets approach your work area. Stop the machine until they are safely past.

  • Keep in mind it is better to weed eat an embankment or slope, rather than trying to mow it.

  • When you have completed weed eating, let the machine idle a few minutes to cool down before shutting it off.

  • Supervisors must make sure operators understand the machines they are using and are competent in their operation and safety issues.

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May 2019 Risk and Safety Newsletter

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May 2018 - Risk and Safety Newsletter

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Caring for Oklahoma Municipal Cemeteries

For many, this will be the first year to honor their loved one on Memorial Day.  Ribbons, flowers, flags, balloons, and crosses decorate resting places and celebrate those held dear.  Although the decorations begin appearing the last weekend of May, preparation of the cemetery began months ago.  When family or friends visit, all they will notice is the condition of their loved one’s grave. You want to make sure that what they see is a clean, well-maintained site.

In maintaining the cemetery, the single most damaging lawn maintenance activity (to headstones) is mowing.  In addition, mowing is frequently the single largest cemetery expenditure.  It is critical that lawn mowing is done in a manner the protects the monuments, as well as the lawn.  The most serious issue is the routine removal of grass in the immediate vicinity of gravestones and tombs.  The best practice is to mow to within 12-inches of markers and finish the work using hand shears.  This approach, however, is almost universally cost prohibitive.  Another approach is the permanent removal of grass around the bases of stones.  The solution is usually discouraged since it creates an unnatural and unattractive landscape and its long-term maintenance creates additional costs and threats to the stone (especially since there will be an inclination to use weed killer as a simple solution).

The best workable solution is to use no power mower within 12-inches of the markers.  Weed whips (rotating nylon filament trimmers) may then be used – with extreme care – to finish the job up to the stone.  For these procedures to cause minimal damage, four precautions are absolutely critical:

  1. The maintenance crew must be carefully trained and closely supervised.  They must understand that the historic markers are very fragile and that the activities used on residential or commercial grounds are unacceptable for cemeteries.

  2. Only walk behind mowers should be used – riding mowers offer too little control and operators are too inclined to take chances in an effort to speed the mowing up and get on to another job.

  3. All mowers – even when used no closer than 23 inches – must have bumper guards installed to offer additional protection.  This can be achieved by using cable ties to attach closed cell foam, such as that used for the insulation of pipes, to the sides, front, and rear of all mowers.

  4. The nylon string in the trimmers must be the lightest gauge possible – no heavier than 0.09 inch.

Perhaps the best protection from mower damage, however, is the active involvement of the superintendent in the oversight of landscape maintenance operations – inspections by the superintendent should be made during and after mowing operations.

 

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Mowing Risk Management Tips

Municipalities are responsible for maintaining cemeteries, parks and recreation areas, as well as the grounds around municipal buildings. Employees are often mowing, weeding, and maintaining the properties with riding mowers, push lawn mowers, tractors, and weed trimmers. This equipment has the potential to injure operators or bystanders. In addition, objects propelled by the blades or cords of the equipment could also injure bystanders or damage property like headstones in cemeteries, or vehicles parked in a lot or driving by a city maintained median.

Injuries to equipment operators may be reduced with proper use and maintenance of the equipment, coupled with wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Some injuries associated with the operation of lawn equipment include: cuts and scratches on the lower legs, dust and debris getting into eyes, hand and forearm lacerations, foot injuries and amputations, or back and shoulder strains. Fatalities from falls or rollovers while operating riding mowers are another catastrophic consideration.

Here are some safety tips to consider while using lawn mowers and tractors. Before beginning to mow make sure the area is clear of debris (sticks, rocks, cans, etc.), look for holes or depressions, and identify and mark any large semi-buried rocks or stumps that could damage the mower or cause a rollover. Do not mow while people or animals are in the mowing area. If anyone enters the mowing area while you are mowing stop and shutdown the blade until they pass and are safely out of reach of a flying projectile (about 50 feet). Mow in dry conditions only, not only can wet grass clog the mower, but wet conditions can cause the ground to become unstable causing the mower to slip and slide. Plan to mow during the day. Never mow at night when visibility is limited. Check the weather forecast - never mow during a thunderstorm. Make sure the grass deflectors, blade covers, and other safety guards are in place. If the mower or tractor has a ROPS (rollover protective system) make sure it is in the “up” position and locked in place. Never operate mowers when sleepy or ill.

Match the slope to the mower. If slopes are too steep to mow with a riding mower, use a push mower. With riding mowers, mow up and down a slope – preferably only mowing down the slope and driving (without mowing) back up the slope. When push mowing a slope, mow horizontally across the slope. This will help prevent the operator’s feet from sliding under the blades if the mower or operator slips. Rear engine mowers are fairly unstable and are not recommended to use on slopes, even vertically, due to tip and rollover hazards.

While mowing, do not allow children near the work area, since any kind of accident can occur if the operator is unaware and does not see those who might be attracted by the machine and mowing activity. Never assume children will remain where they were last seen. Keep an eye out for delivery trucks and other vehicles when crossing parking lots and driveways. Arrange the mowing path to avoid propelling objects toward people, vehicles, or buildings with windows. Keep the discharge chute opening lowered at all times and be sure the area is clear of people and pets before operating. If someone approaches your mowing area, stop the blade until they are safely passed. If they approach you on the mower, stop the blade and turn the mower off. Never carry any passengers on the mower or tractor; it is “operator only” aboard the equipment.

Push mowers are designed to be pushed forward. Pulling them backwards increases the risk of accidental contact with the blade. Occasionally, there may be a need to pull the mower backwards while maneuvering, but otherwise try not to mow pulling backwards. On riding mowers and tractors try not to mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary and look in the direction you are traveling if mowing in reverse. Never put your hands or feet into the mower to remove grass or debris. Even with the motor turned off, the blade remains engaged. Use a stick or broom handle to remove obstructions (not your hands). If using a bagger, stop the blade before emptying the bag. Stop the engine before reaching into the discharge chute. Keep movements on slopes slow and gradual. Do not make sudden changes in speed or direction, which could cause a tip or rollover. Do not mow near drop-offs, ditches, or embankments. The mower could suddenly rollover if the wheel goes over the edge or if it caves in. Tall grass can hide objects, holes, or bumps. Go slowly and use caution when mowing through areas where there may be tree stumps or semi-buried rocks hidden by tall grass. If the mower strikes an object, stop, turn off the engine and inspect the mower and blade for damage. If damaged, do not use it until it is repaired. Turn off the blade and wait for it to stop before crossing gravel paths, roads, alleys, or trails. Always stop the blade before removing the grass catcher or unclogging the discharge chute. Before refueling, always allow the engine to cool down a few minutes and never smoke while refueling. Do not run a gasoline or diesel engine indoors without proper ventilation. Shut off the engine and remove the key before leaving the mower unattended, even briefly. When working on the mower, remove the sparkplug wire to prevent an accidental startup. It is especially important while removing the blade – turning the blade bolt with a wrench can turn the blade drive shaft and crank the engine, causing the mower to start. Wear personal protective equipment including work boots, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, hearing protection, and shatterproof safety glasses or goggles.

Taking these precautions can greatly improve your risk management during mowing season. Fewer windows will be broken, vehicles dented, headstones marred, and people injured if we just take the time to “think safe”.

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Weed Trimmer Safety Tips

Weeds have a tendency to sprout alongside walkways, buildings, and cemetery headstones on municipal grounds. Few lawn mowers can safely get into these edges and corners as needed to cut weeds and tall grass. A weed trimmer is the best way to reach these spots. Consider the following safety tips for using weed trimmers.

Prepare the site – walk the area to be trimmed prior to starting. Remove debris, sticks, stones, and other obstacles or potential hazards. Make sure there are no people or pets in the area and stay alert to anyone or anything entering your workspace while trimming. Prepare the weed trimmer by checking the safety guards and shields, making sure they are in place. Verify there is enough nylon line in the spool. Fill the fuel tank and always allow the engine to cool down before refueling.

When trimming, keep in mind that lawn trimmers can throw objects at high speeds, so avoid working near people, vehicles, and delicate building structures. Never attempt to adjust or repair a weed trimmer while the engine is running. Keep the line short so it does not extend past the guard on the head of the weed trimmer. Keep one hand on the handle and one hand on the shaft of the trimmer to provide greater control. If provided, use a shoulder strap for support to help with weight and vibration of the weed trimmer. This can help prevent back, shoulder, and arm fatigue or strains. When trimming, keep the throttle at full speed, but be able to maintain control of the trimmer. Swing the trimmer in a slow smooth arcing motion. Move the trimmer forward and step forward to cover more ground. Don’t over extend the trimmer with just your arms or bending forward, as this could cause excess fatigue.

Watch for hidden obstacles like wires, fence posts, rocks, or bricks that could cause the trimmer to bounce backwards or entangle the line and jam the trimmer. This could cause injury to the operator or damage the equipment. Wear work boots, hearing protection, eye and face protection, long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect your body.

Working outside, other personnel safety precautions include dealing with weather and natural conditions. Consider the following additional safety tips while using weed trimmers. If you are working near a street or roadway, wear a reflective vest. Be aware of nearby traffic and parked vehicles and position yourself so you won’t accidentally throw objects into traffic or vehicles. Don’t listen to music with headphones, as it can be a distraction and add to noise exposure. Use sun block and wear a hat to protect from sun exposure. Use an insect repellant with at least 10% DEET to protect from mosquito and tick bites. Stay hydrated, drinking about 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes. Be able to identify and avoid poisonous plants like poison ivy, poison sumac, and nettles. Watch out for venomous spiders, caterpillars, and snakes. Keep a first-aid kit handy and include EpiPens and a snakebite kit in the kit.

The key to safe operation of weed trimmers varies; select the proper type of weed trimmer for the job. Make sure operators are properly trained to use the equipment. Survey the work area and identify or remove obstacles and hazards. Don’t work around people or pets. Inspect and maintain your equipment frequently and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance and safety instructions. Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Compliance with these safety considerations can help better protect workers, citizens, and the municipality from injury, property damage, and tort claims.

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Safety Considerations While Using Riding Mowers, Push Mowers and Weed Eaters

Safety Considerations While Using Riding Mowers, Push Mowers and Weed Eaters

Workers operating riding mowers face serious safety issues. Their employers need to make sure the equipment in use is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Employers must make sure that workers are trained to avoid hazardous surroundings. Finally, the employer must ensure that mowing operations are performed safely. 

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