If you have limited time for lawn care, you definitely don’t have time for an emergency room visit. Lawn mowers are essential equipment for any yard with grass, but they can cause all kinds of injuries if you don’t take proper precautions. It’s important to follow lawn mower safety tips.
Following these lawn mower safety tips can save you from serious injury. Just a few changes to your mowing and yard work routine means you can maintain your beautiful landscape for years to come.
Proper equipment maintenance is important for two reasons: Damaged mowers are much more likely to cause injury, and improperly servicing your mower is also a primary culprit for harm.
If you follow one rule from this whole article, it should be this: Never perform any kind of maintenance on your mower while it’s running. This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. You’ll also want to remove the spark plug if you’re doing any work on the blade.
Keep your mower in good working order by sharpening the blade regularly. The general rule of thumb is to sharpen the blade every 20 to 25 hours of use time. If you mow for an hour once a week, that means sharpening the blade twice a year.
Pro Tip: If you just filled the gas tank, wait a few minutes for any fumes to evaporate before starting the mower or messing with the spark plug.
It can be nerve-wracking (or exciting, depending on your personality) to mow slopes. Proper mowing technique for hills depends on the type of mower you’re using.
If you have a walk-behind or push mower, mow in lines parallel to the slope, not up and down. This prevents the risk of slipping under the mower. It’s also much easier to push a walk-behind mower across the face of a slope instead of directly up or down.
If you have a riding mower, mow perpendicular to the slope (up and down). If you mow parallel to the slope on a riding mower, you’re in danger of the mower tipping over and pinning you underneath. You should not use riding mowers on steep hills or embankments.
Winterization is when you prepare your equipment for the long months spent hibernating in the shed during the cold season. It’s more than just stashing it away and waving goodbye — proper winterization will extend the life of your equipment and protect it from damage (thereby protecting you from damage, too).
Steps to winterizing a lawn mower:
- Empty the gas tank (or add a fuel stabilizer). This prevents fuel from gumming up the carburetor.
- To empty the gas tank: Siphon your gas into a gas can, then turn on your mower and let it run until it stops. Repeat this process until it doesn’t start up again.
- To add fuel stabilizer: Siphon your gas into a clean can to measure it, then add the proper amount of fuel stabilizer to the tank (this information will be on the fuel stabilizer container). Add your gas back into the tank and run the engine for 10 minutes to distribute the preservative.
- Disconnect the spark plug.
- Remove the lawn mower blade to clean and sharpen it.
- Turn the mower on its side so the carburetor faces up. Turning the mower on its side to do this can be difficult. You may need some help.
- Mark the bottom of the blade so you know which way to reinstall it.
- Use a wrench to remove the nut that holds the blade in place.
- Clean the blade and undercarriage with a cloth and brush.
- Sharpen the blade, if necessary.
- Always wear protective gear including gloves and eyewear.
- Place the blade in a vise before using a file or grindstone to sharpen the cutting edge until it’s as sharp as a butter knife.
- Replace the blade.
- Change the oil.
- Unscrew the gas cap and place a sandwich bag on top of the opening, then screw the cap back on. This prevents leaks.
- The mower should be on its side with the air filter pointing up.
- Place an oil drain pan below, then remove the dipstick and let the old oil drain out.
- Add about half of a bottle of oil. Using your dipstick to check the level, add the rest of the oil until it reaches the fill line.
- Replace the spark plug.
Wear the right gear
Mowing your lawn may not be the fashion event of the year, but it’s still important to dress the part. Mower blades can spin up to 160 miles per hour, so it’s important to pick out a suitable outfit that doesn’t include your favorite flip-flops.
Dressing the part means wearing protective eyewear, long pants, and sturdy, closed-toed shoes with grippy soles like work boots. It’s also a great idea to put on hearing protection like earmuffs. As we get older, our hearing becomes more sensitive to damage, so it’s important to protect our ears.
Anyone who’s spent a summer afternoon cutting the grass without a hat knows the pain of a post-mow sunburn. Make sure you have a wide-brim hat and sunscreen, and consider mowing in the morning when the sun isn’t as strong.
Safe mowing strategies
We know it’s not always easy to find the right time to cut the grass. However, squeezing in a quick mow in less-than-ideal conditions is a danger to your safety. These are a few tips for safe mowing strategies.
- Choose your weather wisely. One essential rule for mowing is to never mow wet grass, and you definitely don’t want to crank up your machine in bad weather like a thunderstorm. Not only will mowing wet grass tear up the leaf blades, it also increases your chances of slipping.
- Clear your yard of all debris before mowing, including branches, rocks, and toys.
- If the mower hits an object, turn off the mower or hit the mower’s bail lever or “deadman” control (a safety feature that stops the rotating blade) before reaching anywhere near it. Inspect the mower for damage, and don’t use it if it might need any repairs.
- Turn off the mower (and make sure the blades stop completely) before crossing gravel paths or roads.
- Never pull the mower backward. If you slip, you could pull it right on top of you.
- If you have a history of chest, joint, or back pain, it might be in your best interest to reconsider your weekly mowing. Be especially careful when wrenching the pull cord to start it.
Mowing the lawn is a great way to get kids more involved with taking care of the home as well as getting some outside exercise. However, be sure you’re exercising caution when handing the reins over to your child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should be:
- At least 12 years old to operate a walk-behind mower
- At least 16 years old to operate a riding lawn mower
Just like you, they should wear the proper clothing, eye protection, and close-toed shoes. If a child is old enough to operate a mower, make sure they have the proper training and adult supervision. The AAP also recommends you never take a child as a passenger on a riding mower.
If you’re mowing the lawn yourself, make sure young children (and pets) are indoors. Many landscaping power tools can fling debris at high speeds in unexpected directions, causing injury.
Why lawn mower safety matters
Lawn mowers are one of the most common culprits of lawn care injuries. A 2018 study from Johns Hopkins found there were an average of 6,400 injuries from mowers every year in the U.S. Most of those mower injuries required surgery or hospital stays costing patients on average $37,000.
The most common injury was lacerations, followed by fractures and amputations. Your wrists, hands, feet, and toes are the easiest targets, which is why proper footwear and caution when reaching under or cleaning blades is especially important.
This might sound scary, but most lawn mower injuries are due to negligence. So just keep your mower in good condition, exercise caution, and be aware of your surroundings.
Consider hiring a pro
When in doubt, call a professional. Not only will hiring a landscaping team eliminate your risk of injury, but it also will give you your weekends to enjoy. A Lawn Love pro can help with weekly mowing, seasonal yard cleanup, flower bed installation, and general lawn maintenance.
Main Photo Credit: Magic K | Pexels