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Health & Safety: safe mowing practices

Safe mowing in the summer time

May 9, 2017  By CCOHS

A supervisor should demonstrate to his crew the safe operation of a mower.

This time of year many workers, new and experienced, are back at work with power mowers getting lawns back into shape and keeping them maintained. Whether as part of your job or when at home, mowers may seem simple enough to operate but there are serious hazards that come with operating any power tool.

Operating power mowers can be risky business. When you are mowing the lawn you are at risk of cuts and amputations, bruises and abrasions from plants and trees, burns from hot engines, electric shock or electrocution from contact with live electrical parts or electric power lines, and slips and falls from working in wet and/or cluttered areas.

Here are some tips for the safe use of power mowers to review heading into grass cutting season.

Before you start the work, read and follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s operating manual, and ensure your supervisor has fully trained you on how to operate the mower. Your supervisor should show you how to use the mower, and observe you working with it until satisfied that you can operate it safely. Be aware of the mower’s safety features, including how to stop the mower quickly in case of an emergency.


What to wear
Wear high-cut, non-slip safety toe footwear with reinforced soles. Approved head protection helps when working under low branches and can deflect falling objects. A wide-brimmed hat, proper sunglasses, and comfortable clothing can provide protection from prolonged time in the sun. Wear sturdy gloves with a grip, hearing protection, and do not wear loose or torn clothing.

Fill the fuel tank before starting a job, while the engine is cold. If the engine has been running, shut off the engine and allow it to cool. Position yourself comfortably so that you can refuel without slipping and remove the fuel cap slowly, holding it at the semi-locked position until pressure is released. After filling, allow the nozzle to empty by keeping it in the filler opening for a few moments after shutting off fuel flow. Replace the fuel cap after checking to see that the venting is not clogged.


If you spill any fuel on equipment, wipe it up and allow any residue to dry before starting the engine. If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll. Quickly remove the blazing garment, or drop to the ground and roll slowly, or wrap yourself in a blanket.

Dos and don’ts of operating a power mower:

  • Know the controls and how to stop the machine quickly.
  • Inspect the mower before starting. Make certain that the blade is sharp and secure.
  • Ensure that shields and other guards, such as the rear drag shield and discharge deflector, are in place and working properly.
  • Keep hands away from the blades.
  • Keep people away from the work area. Mowers can hurl objects in any direction.
  • Clear the work area of rocks, bottles and debris that might be thrown by the blades.
  • Watch for hidden hazards such as holes, roots, drain pipes and insect nests.
  • Proceed slowly into tall, heavy grass to avoid choking the mower or stalling the motor.
  • Set the mower at the highest cutting level when operating on rough ground.
  • Ensure blade-stopping controls are effective. Adjust as necessary.
  • Mow across slopes. Your feet are less likely to slide under the mower. Also, the mower cannot roll back.
  • Disconnect the spark plug wire before sharpening, replacing and cleaning.
  • Do not reach under the machine.
  • Do not touch hot motor parts.
  • Do not spray cold water on a hot engine.
  • Do not make wheel height adjustments while the motor is running.
  • Do not leave blades rotating when crossing graveled area.
  • Do not leave a mower running unattended.
  • Do not remove the grass catcher or unclog chute with the motor running.
  • Do not mow when surfaces are too slippery for you or the mower.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well being of workers in Canada by providing information, training, education,  systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and injury and illness prevention.

This article is part of the Equipment Week.

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