Every piece of outdoor power equipment requires some safety precautions. With lawn mowers there’s the obvious hazard of the blades. With ride on and zero-turn mowers there may be even more dangers as they can be larger pieces of machinery with many moving parts. Follow our comprehensive guide to lawn mower safety (push mowers, ride ons and zero-turns) and reduce the risk of damaging yourself, anyone else or your mower.
Read the manual
The manufacturer will know better than anyone how to operate every part of the mower safely. Read the manual and familiarise yourself with any specific safety requirements for your mower.
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- Earplugs or earmuffs - listening to sounds over 85 decibels for long periods starts to cause hearing damage and lawn mowers can produce more than 100 decibels.
- Proper footwear – choose something with good grip that covers your toes. Not only do jandals and sandals leave your toes exposed, you’re more likely to slip or trip.
- Goggles – not always essential but if you want to be super safe they will protect your eyes from objects flying out from under the mower at high speed.
- Long pants and sleeves – not always essential (and sometimes uncomfortable in summer) but covering you skin will help reduce injury from high-speed debris missiles and burns from making contact with hot metal.
Check the area first
Be aware of your environment and look for any obstacles or debris that might damage the mower, break a window or cause physical harm; eg. rocks, big sticks, pets, other people, etc.
Rear end weight
The majority of the weight of a zero-turn mower rests over its rear wheels. Just something to keep in mind when you’re making turns or mowing near a drop-off.
Safety on slopes
Push mower, ride on or zero-turn, slopes are a risky area for any mower so pay special attention when mowing one. As we just mentioned, zero-turn mowers are sometimes heavily weighted at the back, which can make them a bit awkward on slopes; turning and braking on a gradient may also prove difficult. If you absolutely have to mow slopes on a zero-turn mower first check the manufacturer’s recommendation for what is safe and mow straight up and down, not across. If you need to make a turn around an obstacle, do it when you are going up, not down.
Do the opposite with a push mower, mow side to side so there’s no risk of it rolling back onto you.
In wet conditions, avoid mowing slopes altogether.
Keep it steady
The tight turning radius and high speed of zero-turn mowers can make them a little unsteady if you’re a bit too sharp or jerky with your turning motions. It can result in a rollover so be careful and keep it steady when turning. Which leads on nicely to our next point…
Get in close, but not too close
Being able to cut in really close to objects is one of the main benefits of zero-turn mowers. But there is such a thing as too close. A slight jerk of the handles/steering wheel could cause you to bump into something or spin the deck over an area you don’t want to mow. When it comes to mowing culverts, drop-offs or edges, a push mower could be much safer. It is tempting to use the zero-turn but with its hefty weight and width you really do risk damaging the machine, let alone yourself.
Use your demo for a bit of training
When you arrange a free demonstration take the opportunity to quiz the dealer about how to best operate the mower safely. Have a really good go and take the time to ensure you feel comfortable driving it. And perhaps, once you’ve purchase it, don’t go full tilt until you’ve had a few goes and really have the hang of it. Start slow, and once you have experience, it can be amazing what you can complete with a zero turn.
Don’t mow over gravel
Never cross over a gravel patch with the blades engaged or lowered. And when mowing grass near gravel watch out for cars or people.
Don’t pull push mowers backwards
Whenever possible, try not to pull a mower towards you in case you slip and pull it on top of you.
Respect the blades
Changing the blades, unclogging a chute – of for whatever reason you need to go near those blades always turn off the mower. Even better, detach the spark plug so there’s not even the remotest chance of it roaring back into life unexpectedly. That’s mainly for when you’re servicing the mower as it’s not going to be convenient mid-mow.
Don’t drink and drive
D’uh! In many ways operating a mower needs the same kind of care as driving a car. So don’t drink, and avoid distractions like using your phone.
Take safety seriously
The definition of accident is an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally so don’t fall into the trap of thinking “it won’t happen to me”. It could so stick to the tried and true mantra of ‘better safe than sorry’.
A few last thoughts…
- Add fuel before starting the engine, not when it is running or hot.
- Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running.
- Children should be at least 12 before using a push lawn mower, and 15/16 to operate a ride on.
- Do not remove or restrict any roll frames, safety devices, shields, or guards on switches.
- If you want to be the fun parent or grandparent find a way other thank taking the kids for a spin on the mower.
Happy, safe mowing everyone!
*Disclaimer – the above tips are a basic guide only. Always refer to the mower’s owner’s manual for full safety information. OMC accepts no responsibility for misuse of machinery as a result of the above tips.