When you have a large yard, a riding lawnmower makes lawn care more efficient and less strenuous. But in spite of the benefits, these machines pose a number of risks. When operating power lawn mowers and other powered yard-care equipment, you must be aware of the safety practices you need to follow. It is important to be informed and use extreme caution.
In order to avoid injury while operating a riding lawnmower, follow these precautions:
- Read the owner’s manual and safety information before using your riding lawnmower. Never disable or bypass safety devices.
- Walk around your yard and remove rocks, sticks, toys and other obstacles that could potentially get run over.
- Fill the gas tank in an open area, such as your driveway, to avoid fume inhalation.
- Do not carry passengers with you as you mow, even if they are small and are eager for a ride.
- Wear close-fitting clothes and closed-toe shoes with traction soles. Never operate equipment while barefoot or when wearing flip-flops or sandals.
- Inspect the equipment to ensure that the grass catcher, discharge guard and other safety devices are in proper working order.
- Adjust the deck cutting height only when the engine is off.
- Get into the driver’s seat and start the engine. Never start it while standing next to the mower.
- Engage the blades at the lowest setting first and then release the brake slowly.
- When turning, slow down significantly so you maintain control.
Mow in a forward direction whenever possible.
Never leave a running mower unattended.
Clean clippings and other debris from the mower after each use.
Did you know you are most likely to suffer a lawnmower accident on the slope of your lawn? The mower can easily tip over and cause you to lose control. Always mow up and down slopes, and never try to drive across them. Also, do not start, stop or attempt to turn while you are on a slope. Instead, stay the course and drive slowly.
Other hazardous conditions you need to be mindful of include:
- Sharp blades
- Rocks and sticks thrown from the equipment
- Heat illness – Drink plenty of fluids; don’t wait to drink until you are thirsty. Wear cool, comfortable clothing, a hat and sunscreen.
- Foreign objects or debris on the ground
Remember to practice safety -- don’t learn it by accident!
Is my teen old enough to help?
While it's a great idea to enlist teens for help with yard work whenever possible, it is important to have an idea of the suggested age minimums. When it comes to your own children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 12 as the minimum age for operating a push mower, and 16 as the minimum age for operating a ride-on mower. They also suggest that you consider the strength and maturity of the child before letting them mow. Once you feel like your child is old enough to manage this task - make sure you share the tips above, and teach them the proper ways to use and maintain the mower safely. Supervise their work until you are convinced that they can accomplish the task alone.
When it comes to hiring teens, the rules are a little different. The Department of Labor says:
- You must be at least 16 years old to operate lawn mowers and other powered lawn-care equipment, such as leaf blowers and nylon string-style weed whackers. Both push and riding lawn mowers are allowed.
- Nobody under the age of 18 can legally operate commercial-grade powered equipment. This includes trimmers with blades or shears, chainsaws, powered thatchers, aerators, rototillers and chippers, and mowers pulled with a tractor.
- Minors are also prohibited from performing work where the noise exposure requires hearing protection.