It’s hard to believe that spring is just around the corner. Your daily job duties will switch from snow and ice removal to moving before you know it. Workers performing mowing operations face serious safety issues. Employers need to make sure that workers are trained properly and that mowing is performed safely.
Riding mowers and tractors are often designed by the manufacturer to be equipped with a rollover protection structure (ROPS). These ROPS are certified to meet maximum rollover impact and should have a certification label attached to the roll bar stating that it meets SAE/ASAE/OSHA standards. Do not modify a factory installed ROPS. If the mower does not have a ROPS, look for unused bolt holes or brackets near the seat or frame to see if the mower should be equipped with a ROPS. In many cases, retrofit kits are available.
Mowers with a ROPS should also be equipped with a seat belt. The use of ROPS and a seat belt is estimated to be 99% effective in preventing death or serious injury in the event of a rollover.
It is necessary to inspect and service a ROPS and seat belt periodically to check for rust, cracks or other signs of wear. These could cause a failure of the ROPS during a rollover. In addition, if a mower or tractor with a ROPS does overturn, the ROPS should be replaced. ROPS are only designed and certified to withstand a single rollover.
Employees should be familiar with the condition of the terrain on which they will be mowing. Do not operate mowers on slopes that exceed the angle limits specified by the manufacturer. Look for a label on the mower with this information. Avoid mowing on slopes with an angle of over 15 degrees if there is no other information available.
Employers are responsible for providing training to workers before they begin mowing. Topics should include a review of all safety devices to ensure that ROPS, guards, seat belts, and shields are securely in place and properly used. A review should also be done of stability and rollover hazards associated with operating mowers on surfaces, terrain, or areas that could pose a risk. These locations would include loading ramps, wet surfaces, slopes, and areas near drop-offs, retaining walls, embankments, streams, bodies of water, culverts and excavations.
In addition to rollover safety, employees should also be trained on overall mower safety. This would include:
- Proper use of personal protective equipment, including: hearing and head protection, safety glasses, work boots, etc.
- Always start the mower from the driver’s seat. Never start the machine while standing beside it.
- Never mount or dismount a mower while it is running.
The safe operation of a mower is similar to the safe operation of a motor vehicle: drive defensively and expect the unexpected.
©2015 University of Kentucky, Technology Transfer Program (T2)
Reprinted with permission from T2, Kentucky Transportation Center