Safe Operation of Riding Mowers and Lawn/Garden Tractors

Figure 1. Mower discharge chute in place.

Riding mowers, lawn tractors, lawn and garden tractors, and garden tractors are large and powerful. They can be dangerous if not used safely.
Keep in mind that a garden tractor can weigh more than 900 pounds and have as much horsepower as the farm tractors your grandfather used. Most manufacturers are conscientious about designing safety features into the machines, but you are still the most important safety feature on the machine. 

Here are some of the hazards you may face and suggestions for safely avoiding them. Important overall recommendations are to keep all safety features properly maintained, read and follow the operator’s manual and warning decals, and be safety conscious. Do not allow children to operate these machines.

Blade Contact is the most obvious hazard. Since the blade tip speed can be up to 19,000 feet per minute (that’s 215 mph!), contact with a blade will cause serious injury. Stay in the seat when operating the mower deck. Keep feet and hands away from the deck. Be sure the operator presence control and blade brake are working.

Thrown Objects can be minimized by always using your discharge chute, mulching plate or a bagging attachment (Figure 1). Pick up rocks, trash, limbs, etc., before mowing. Disengage the mower deck before crossing gravel or uneven ground. Keep children, pets, etc., well away from the mower when operating. Replace any damaged grass catchers, since damage might allow objects to be thrown through the catcher.

Fire is always a possibility with gasoline engines, and, to a lesser extent, with diesel engines. Tractors and small riding mowers pose a particular hazard because the operator’s station is open (no cab) and the machines are so compact that the operator can’t be very far from the fuel tank. Fuel the engine only when the tractor has cooled. Do not open the fuel tank cap when the engine is hot. Be careful to avoid impacts to the fuel tank or fuel lines. Maintain fuel lines and other fuel components in good condition. Try to avoid spills when refueling.

Runovers can occur if children (or even adults) ride on the mower or tractor. Never allow riders. Never allow more than one person on the machine. Keep children away from the machine when operating. Be especially careful when backing up. Also, be careful not to operate on rough ground at high speed, because this can throw the driver off.

Obstacles such as tree branches can injure the operator or even drag you off of the seat. Be careful operating around or under trees, fences, picnic tables, patio furniture, gas or water pipes, etc.

Always treat your riding mower or tractor with care and respect.

12/2/2004 2:41:45 AM
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