Useful safety tips for riding mowers and lawn tractors.
Riding mowers and lawn tractors can be dangerous pieces of equipment if not used properly and not maintained. There are roughly 100 tractor-related deaths in the United States each year and the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that more than 80 percent of them involve rollover accidents.
Rollover accidents happen when the mower or tractor is in an unstable situation such as when it is on a steep incline, during a high speed turn, or when starting off in low gear when the engine is revving at high speed. Other common tractor accidents include being caught in moving parts and collisions.
Besides the equipment and environment, other factors add to the risk of lawn tractor accidents, such as distracted driving and not wearing a seat belt. According to OSHA, the use of seat belts and a rollover protection structure (ROPS) can prevent more than 99 percent of rollover deaths and serious injuries.
Riding Mower with Rollover Proctection Structure (ROPS)
Protection Against Riding Mower Accidents
• Make sure the mower is well maintained. Properly maintain the mower by following the manufacturer’s instructions and check all fasteners, guards and parts. Built-in safety features are effective only if maintained and kept in place.
• Do not allow anyone to operate the mower until they have had proper instruction.
• Do not wear loose-fitting clothing that could get caught in moving parts.
• Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts.
• Only operate equipment with both ROPS and seat belts.
• Walk around the area you are mowing to become familiar with the terrain.
• Clear the lawn area of foreign objects, children and pets before starting to mow. Do not attempt to clear the lawn while mowing. Foreign objects hurled by the mower’s blade can injure children in the area.
• Disengage all clutches, including the mower blade, and put gear shift in neutral before starting the engine. Most mowers now have safety interlocks which prevent the engine from starting unless all controls are in proper position and newer mowers will not start without an operator on the seat.
• Reduce speed before turning the tractor.
• Use engine braking when going downhill.
• Avoid crossing steep slopes and use caution on any slope or incline. Usually, it is safer to mow steeper slopes up and down, but do not attempt to mow up and down any slope where the mower loses traction.
• Stay clear of ditches and banks of streams and ponds. Also be aware of any holes.
• Do not drive on busy streets.
• Disengage the mower blade when moving on pavement, across walks or on gravel lanes.
• Only start engines outside and never in an enclosed garage or shed.
• Do not attempt to operate the mower when not in driver's seat. Electric start riding mowers have a seat switch which stops the blade, drive train and engine if the operator leaves the seat and will not restart without an operator of sufficient weight being on the seat.
• Never walk between the tractor and attachment.
• Never dismount a moving tractor and always shut the engine off before leaving the seat.
• Never refuel the mower or tractor while the engine is running or hot.
• Do not add coolant to the radiator while the engine is hot or running.
• Take your time; don’t try to rush or take short cuts.
• Never allow a small child onto the riding mower. Riding mowers are made to carry only one person.
• Never operate tractors, riding mowers, or any lawn equipment if you are tired or under the influence of alcohol, medication, or drugs.