accident with a rotary mower can cost you your life! We all
know that a small push mower is a dangerous piece of equipment.
Large agricultural mowers , by their nature can do much more
damage to an individual. Following safety practices, using proper
protective equipment correctly and keeping the mower in good
repair will all help keep the operator safe.
main source of danger with any mower is the blade, which does
the actual work of cutting. In order to perform its task efficiently,
the blade must be sharp and travel at a high speed. This sharp,
high-speed blade can cause serious injury if a hand or foot
is allowed to get under the mower deck while the engine is running.
The manner in which the mower is operated on slopes is also
important. Push mowers should always be operated across the
slope so your feet will not get under the mower if you slip,
nor will the mower roll down the slope and run over you. Pulling
a push type mower is also dangerous, as your foot might slip
under the mower. Riding mowers are generally more stable when
operated up and down the slope.
There is also the danger of objects being thrown from under
the mower by the blade, whose tip may be moving as fast as 200
miles per hour. A person struck by a rock or piece of wire thrown
with such force could experience severe injury or even death.
Fueling hot engines and smoking while refueling can result in
serious burns, often to large portions of the body.
Another source of danger is that of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Whenever an engine is started in an enclosed area, such as a
garage, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning exists.
- Prepare lawn/field for mowing. Every time
before you mow, check your surface for items such as sticks,
rocks, toys, sports equipment, dog bones, wire, and equipment
parts. Make sure miscellaneous items are not hidden in tall
grass. Also look for and mark immovable objects, such as
pipes, or partially buried rocks. Running into a fixed object
can shatter the blade and throw jagged chunks of metal out
the discharge chute or under the housing. Obstacles such
as ditches, rocks, and stumps can throw you off the tractor
or cause a tractor upset. Be especially alert when objects
may be hidden by tall grass, weeds or brush.
- Handle fuel with care. A hot muffler can
ignite vapors from the gasoline Always allow the mower to
cool down before refueling. Any gasoline, which is spilled,
should be wiped up immediately.
- Gasoline is flammable because it vaporizes with air to
form a mixture that ignites easily. Vaporization can occur
in temperatures as low as zero degrees
- Always refuel outdoors and move away from the fueling
location at least 25 feet before starting the engine to
avoid igniting fuel vapors which may linger for some time.
Do not smoke while refueling.
- Wear appropriate clothes. Always wear sturdy,
non-slip shoes instead of tennis shoes or sandals. Steel-toe
safety footwear offers the most protection against the blade.
- Long pants help protect your legs from objects which
may be thrown from under the mower, such as small rocks
and sticks. Close-fitting clothes are less likely to get
caught on controls or moving parts
- Hearing protection, gloves and safety glasses are also
- Use the right type of mower for the job.
Know the job you are going to do, and use the correct kind
of mower for it. For example, don't try to cut brush with
a mower designed only for forage. You could be exposed to
hazards caused by machine failure.
- Use heavy-duty blades where they are needed, and use
a large enough machine to do the job properly. Check your
operator's manual for the type of job your mower is designed
Rear-engine riding mowers, lawn tractors and garden tractors
are all designed to cut grass; however, the engine power, cutting
widths, and other capabilities of these products are very different.
- Keep others away. Don't allow extra riders
on your tractor, and keep other people out of your working
area. Serious injury or death can result from falling off
the tractor and being run over by the mower, the tractor
wheel or being hit by a thrown object.
- Watch for objects like tin cans, stones, wire or other
items that could be hurled by the mower blades. These can
cause serious injury.
- Avoid operating on steep slopes or near ditches to prevent
overturning. Never operate a riding mower on steep slopes
- Never attempt to unclog or work on a lawnmower while the
engine is running.
- Any time it is necessary to reach under the mower, disconnect
the sparkplug wire to insure that the engine cannot start
for any reason. It does take a little extra time to restart
the engine every time, but not as long as it does to recover
from a serious injury.
- Keep the blade sharp to reduce the power required and
to provide smoother cutting, and run the engine at the lowest
speed that will do the job. The lower blade speed will reduce
the force with which objects are thrown by the mower while
at the same time reducing engine wear. Mow only in daylight.
- Do not operate the mower in wet grass (walking on wet
grass is a slipping hazard for you and more likely to cause
the mower to clog).
- Before mowing adjust the cutting height on mowers.
- Before operating your mower, familiarize yourself with
its maintenance procedures. Study your operator's manual
- Learn the location and use of controls, gauges, and dials
for the tractor.
- Familiarize yourself with speeds, slope capabilities,
braking and steering characteristics, and tractor-mower
- Be sure the tractor is equipped with a rollover protective
structure (ROPS) and a seat belt. If not, have it retrofitted
for one. In Ontario, tractors over 20 horsepower require
- Check that the power take off, mower input driveline,
drive belts, chains, and gears are all properly guarded.
Repair or replace if necessary.
- Check the discharge chute to see that it is present and
- If you will be driving on public roads be sure the slow
moving vehicle (SMV) emblem is in place.
- Check that the warning lights are present and operating.
- Check overhead clearance of electrical wires and other
obstructions, especially if you are using a wing-type, boom-type,
or flail mower.
- If your tractor is equipped with rollover protection,
use the seat belt.
- Disengage the Power Takeoff (PTO) and set the brakes
before dismounting your tractor for any reason
- Be sure blades are stopped. Many rotary
mowers have blades that continue to rotate for some time
after the PTO is disengaged. Be sure they have stopped turning
before approaching the mower.
- Be careful when turning sharp corners.
On pull-type mowers, the rear tractor wheels could catch
the mower frame and throw it toward you.
- With three- point-hitch mounted mowers, the mower swings
outward when you make a turn. Front wheel weights may be
needed to help you keep control.
- Rotary mowers are often equipped with runners and safety
chain guards. To avoid excessive wear on the runners, keep
the mower just high enough so that it doesn't ride on the
- The chain guards reduce the possibility of objects being
thrown from under the mower. Be sure chain guards are maintained
and kept in place. If you must remove them or raise them
for certain crops, be sure to replace or readjust them as
soon as you are finished.
- Power transmission shafts should be protected by shields
or guards. Keep them in place on the machine. Always replace
shields and guards after maintenance or repair jobs are
- Be sure your hands and shoes are clean and dry before
mounting the tractor to prevent slipping. Use the steps
and hand bars.
- Keep wheels wide apart for stability. Disengage the PTO
before cranking the engine.
- Raise the mower high and use low rpm before engaging
power to the unit.
- Use a ground speed based on length and density of material
being cut - normally between 2-5 mph.
- Mow very tall grass twice at 90-degree angles if possible.
- Mow up and down slopes with rear-mount, pull-type, and
- Mow across slopes with side-mount, offset, and sicklebar
- Look behind you before backing-up.
- When finished or stopping, disengage the PTO, place shift
in neutral or park, set parking brake, turn engine off,
and wait for all movement to stop before dismounting.
- Remove the key if leaving the tractor for any length
of time. Always block the mower if working under it for
- Before mowing: Make certain all safety
devices are in place and operating. Be sure the mower is
equipped with a working engine interlock and a "deadman"
- Wear heavy leather gloves to remove and/or replace the
- Never wear gloves while sharpening the blade on a power
grinder as the gloves could be caught and pulled into the
- Be sure the mower and transmission are disengaged before
starting the engine.
- Drive the mower up and down gentle slopes for best stability.
Back up moderate slopes. Avoid steep slopes completely.
- Slow down when turning sharply and on slopes to avoid
- Always look behind you for small children, pets, or obstructions,
before backing the mower.
- Keep the discharge chute pointed away from buildings,
people, and animals.
- Keep hands and feet away from all moving parts
- Turn off the engine and wait for moving parts to stop
before dismounting. Remove the key!
Operating the mower
- Before mowing. Be sure that all safety devices are in
position and working - rear shield, grass chute deflector,
handle up-stops (not on electric models), and "dead man
- Adjust cutting height and blade condition- sharpen if
necessary (engine must be shut off).
- If your electric mower isn't labeled "double insulated"
never plug into anything but a grounded 3-prong outlet.
- Use a ground fault interrupter (GFI) for maximum safety.
- Do not push a running mower over gravel, stones, or hard
objects such as pipes, rocks, or sidewalks. Push the mower
forward - do not pull it.
- Mow across the slope so if you slip you are less likely
to get your feet in the blade.
- Keep electric cord out of the mowing path.
- Keep hands and feet clear of the blade housing and the
- Do not run with push powered mowers.
- If using a push powered mower be careful to not overdo
your work capacity especially on hot days.
- Take frequent rest breaks especially if the operator
is out of condition.
- Point the discharge chute away from people, pets, buildings,
windows, and glass doors.
- Turn the mower off if you leave it for even a moment.
- Know the controls and how to stop the machine quickly.
- Make sure that shields and other guards, such as the
rear drag shield and the discharge deflector, are in place
and working properly.
- Use the recommended grounded extension cord, if using
an electric lawn mower, and follow the applicable electrical
safety procedures described in operator's manual.
- Always push the mower in a forward direction.
- Cut the throttle to idle and make sure the mower will
not roll when stopping to pick up debris.
- Proceed slowly into tall, heavy grass to avoid choking
the mower or stalling the motor.
- Set mower at the highest cutting level when operating
on rough ground.
- Use caution around low hanging branches and shrubs.
- Operate a "push" mower standing up straight, not bent
- Mow across slopes. Your feet are less likely to slide
under the mower and the mower cannot roll back.
- Expose the underside of a mower for maintenance by tipping
it by the handle but only, after shutting it off, ensuring
the blade has stopped rotating, and disconnecting the spark
plug wire (or disconnecting an electric lawn mower).
- Stop the lawn mower immediately if the blade hits any
hard object, inspect the blade, and make the necessary repairs
before using the mower again.
- Keep hands away from the blades.
- Use a stick to unclog or remove grass from the mower
(after you have turned off the mower).
- Mow away from the power cord if using an electric powered
- Disconnect electric lawn mowers or turn off gas-powered
mowers immediately after use.
- Do not pull the mower toward you (or your feet).
- Do not reach under machine. Disconnect the spark plug
wire before sharpening, replacing and cleaning the blade
or any part of the mower.
- Do not touch hot motor parts.
- Do not spray cold water on a hot engine.
- Do not fuel the mower when engine is hot or while the
engine is running.
- Do not make wheel height adjustments while the motor
- Do not lift or tilt the mower while it is running.
- Do not leave blades rotating when crossing a graveled
- Do not leave a running mower unattended.
- Do not remove the grass catcher or unclog the chute while
the motor is running.
- Mow straight up and down slopes rather than sideways
for greater stability (unless mower is counterbalanced).
- Reduce speed on slopes and when making sharp turns to
prevent tipping or loss of control.
- Stop and inspect the blades and shaft if the mower runs
into a rock or stump. Damaged blades can cause vibration
and vibration can loosen the blades.
- Check the blade-mounting bolts frequently for tightness.
- Check grass catcher bags for wear. Replace worn bags.
- Use approved hitch points, limit load weights and size
to what is recommended by the manufacturer.
- Do not turn sharply. use counterweights as recommended
Disengage power to attachments and stop the motor before leaving
operator's position or making any repairs or adjustments by:
setting the brakes; putting the transmission in park, if possible;
turning off the ignition and removing the ignition key.
If it is unavoidable that you have to stop on a slope, chock
in the front and back of a "drive" wheel to prevent the mower
- Do not remove grass catcher or unclog chute with the
motor running. Do not leave mower on a slope.
- Do not stop or start suddenly when going uphill or downhill.
The information and recommendations contained in this publication
are believed to be reliable and representative of contemporary
expert opinion on the subject material. The Farm Safety Association
Inc. does not guarantee absolute accuracy or sufficiency of
subject material, nor can it accept responsibility for health
and safety recommendations that may have been omitted due to
particular and exceptional conditions and circumstances.
Copyright © 2002 Farm Safety Association Inc.
22-340 Woodlawn Road West, Guelph, Ontario (519) 823-5600.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.