Weed Trimmer

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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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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