Take these safety steps whether mowing at work or home

By Kennedy Gardner, BWC Occupational Safety and Hygiene Fellow

In recent weeks, four Ohio workers suffered serious injuries while operating lawn mowers.

The injured workers included:

  • A 44-year-old male working in Massillon who died in a mower rollover.
  • A 21-year-old male working in North Canton who suffered multiple injuries in a mower rollover.
  • A 47-year-old male working in Cleveland who suffered multiple amputations from contact with a running mower blade.
  • A 75-year-old male in Chillicothe who suffered multiple injuries in a mower rollover.

Events like these are reminders of the dangers associated with lawn mowing. Whether you’re mowing for work or in your own yard, below are safety tips for operating either a push or riding lawn mower this summer.

Before using any type of lawn mower, make sure to read the instruction manual and ensure the mower is in good working order. Many injuries come from items being thrown from the spinning blades of the lawn mower. Before starting, clear the mowing area of potential flying objects such as:

  • Toys.
  • Stones.
  • Sticks and smaller tree limbs.
  • Trash and other debris.

Avoid running over any objects and steer clear of immovable objects (e.g., trees and large rocks). Also, users should always wear personal protective equipment, including hearing/eye protection and closed-toe shoes.

Another common injury from lawn mowers are cuts. These injuries often occur when sharp mower blades contact hands, feet or other body parts. It may seem like common sense, but never insert hands or feet into the mower or the discharge chute to remove grass or debris. Even if the lawnmower is turned off, the blades could still be spinning and cause a serious injury. Also, only use a mower that has protection from the hot and sharp parts of the equipment, and never remove these safety devices.

The risk of rollover increases when using a riding lawn mower on a hill or slope. When using a riding mower on a slope:

  • Make sure the roll over protection system (ROPS) is in place.
  • Never use a riding lawn mower on a slope greater than 15%.
  • Slow down and use caution when making turns and changing directions.
  • Never start or stop a riding mower when it is going uphill or downhill. Avoid all sudden starts, stops or turns.
  • If the tires lose traction, disengage the blades and proceed slowly straight down the slope.

Unfortunately, lawn mower accidents are the leading cause of amputations among children, with 600 of the 800 injuries involving children in the United States resulting in an amputation. The best way to avoid these horrific accidents is to keep children inside during mowing, and never let a child ride or sit on the lap of the mower operator. Also, keep pets inside when mowing the lawn as well to avoid unnecessary injuries or accidents.

Always keep safety as a priority and be cautious when mowing the lawn this summer. #summertimesafety

Working hard in the yard? Remember these safety tips

By Andrea Dong, BWC Occupational Safety and Hygiene Fellow

Think about a typical grounds maintenance worker, like a landscaper or tree trimmer, and the tasks they perform on the job. Mowing, weeding, trimming, watering and planting – these probably sound familiar, and you likely have a similar to-do list for your yard at home.

Now take a moment to think about your awareness of the different hazards in this type of work. Are you taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and everyone around you?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that landscaping workers experienced 9,030 injuries in 2015. The following are some guidelines to help you avoid injuries while performing these tasks at home.

Mowing the lawn is probably something many of you have been doing for years, and it has become second nature. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates lawn mowing injuries sent nearly 82,000 people to the emergency room in 2015.

Before you begin, make sure you’re wearing the proper clothes; long pants, sturdy shoes with a good grip, safety glasses and ear plugs are recommended. Inspect your lawn mower before using and make sure there are no cracks, nicks or parts missing. Next you will need to add fuel to the mower. Never do this while the motor is running to reduce the risk of fires and explosions.

Now that you have the right clothing, have checked for damage and have fuel in your engine, it’s finally time to start mowing, right? Before you answer, consider the terrain where you will be working. Debris, like sticks or rocks, can be swept up by the blades and thrown out from under the mower.

The standard mower blade rotates at thousands of RPM, which translates to hundreds of MPH, and any object thrown will also travel this fast. Use the discharge chute guard to deflect debris. Watch out for bystanders, especially children, to make sure other people will not be hit.

Consider the type of mower you own along with the environment. Walk-behind and riding lawn mowers have different operating procedures and different safety concerns. For example, does your lawn have a slope or incline? With walk-behind mowers you should always mow across the slope, never up or down. If you slip, you do not want your feet to get caught between the blades.

If you use a riding mower, you should be mowing up and down the slope, which decreases your chances of tipping. If there are any drop-offs, ditches or embankments, use a string trimmer to cut grass near the edge.

Hand tools – such as shovels, hoes, rakes, shears, trowels, pruners and others – can also cause serious injury if not handled correctly. The CPSC estimates more than 64,000 injuries in 2015 were due to garden hand tool use. Only use the tool for the tasks it was designed to do.

Keep tools in good condition, and do not use if there is any damage. Look for splintered, loose, bent, or cracked handles, mushroomed heads, sprung joints, and worn teeth. Wear clothing like long pants, long sleeved-shirts, gloves, close-toed shoes and safety glasses for added protection.

Aside from hazards like cuts and bruises, hand tools can also cause strains or sprains. Overextending yourself doing yard work at home increases any soreness and fatigue from working at your job.

Straighten your back when using long-handled garden tools. Avoid using tools above shoulder height. Rotate tasks as frequently as possible to reduce your risk for repetitive motion injuries.

Working outside can also expose you to environmental hazards, with heat stress being a common occurrence in the summer. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are dizziness, headaches, fatigue, irritation, and clammy, moist, and flushed skin.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency that includes symptoms like hot, dry skin, disorientation or confusion, convulsions, or unconsciousness. It’s important to stay cool and drink water frequently to avoid overheating. Take frequent breaks and try to complete heavy work in the coolest part of the day, usually between 6 and 10 a.m.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your yard looks great while you and your family stay safe and healthy this summer.