Safety Spotlight: The Mower Rodeo’s in Town

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By: Dave Sanders, Director of Safety and Risk

As spring arrives and we get back to our daily mower operations, we need to be aware of the possible safety hazards and injuries our crews face on a daily basis and what we can do to prevent them. Each year, our branches hold a mower “rodeo” which educates and demonstrates the proper maintenance and application of various landscaping equipment. These training events help crew members obtain a wide array of knowledge and are a great opportunity to practice before arriving at our customers’ properties.

Mower operations can be quite technical, especially while operating large walk-behind or stand-on mowers like the ones our crews use every day. Mowing mistakes can be prevented by recognizing what went wrong in a practice situation and how to properly go about operations the next time it comes into play.

Mower Safety Tips to Keep Top of Mind

  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It’s especially important to remember that seat belts are required on all riders equipped with roll over protection.
  • Choose the right speed. When training, practice in an open/level area at low speed. When on site, do not go faster than conditions permit.
  • Choose the right type and size equipment. Be wary near slopes, drop-offs, water, tight areas, vehicles, traffic, buildings, windows, utilities, or any obstacles. When in doubt, use a string trimmer instead.
  • Operate equipment with regard to safety or proper procedure:
    • Ensure all safety switches and operator presence controls are in proper working order – check prior to operating. Remember if you lose control, let go of the handles so that the operator presence controls shut off the equipment.
    • Use caution when operating walk-behind mowers: Ensure both throttle locks are engaged or disengaged to avoid sudden loss of control.
    • Be aware of all pinch points, on or off the machine (stand-on, walls, signs, vehicles, fences, etc.)

Operating equipment too quickly or choosing the wrong equipment for the area (e.g. using a ride-on or large walk-behind mower on steep slopes) can result in damage to the equipment, the property, and the employee.

Preventative Measures

  • Scout sites beforehand and remove obstacles. Make sure your path is clear of all holes and ditches, especially those covered by tall grass. Always keep an eye out for harmful debris such as rocks or tree limbs.
  • Know and understand mower controls and limitations. Be aware of your environment while out on the job. Never drive on wet slopes and avoid retaining walls and drop-offs.
    • Check manufacturer’s recommendations for maximum slope. If it looks unsafe it is.
  • Always be on guard. Regardless of how many years of experience you may have on a mower, never let your guard down and always be aware of your surroundings.

It is always important to ensure proper safety procedures and operation controls while out on the job. Severe mower injuries and hazards can easily be prevented by applying simple safety precautions and retaining the knowledge learned at training sessions, like the mower rodeo. Keep in mind that while the rodeo can be a fun way to learn the basics of equipment safety and operation, it does not take the place of individual and on-the-job task training with your field manager. It is easy to take something so seemingly simple like mowing for granted, however, every piece of equipment, if handled improperly can carry a lot of potential danger toward yourself and others, so always pay attention and handle with care.