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Operating a Lawn Mower Safely

6/24/2019 5:00:00 AM

Best practices to be safe with outdoor p​ower equipment ​

Operating a lawn mower was once a small responsibility. With the boom of the middle class, homeowners across America were cutting their small yards with powerless reel mowers, but in the 70 years since, yards have gotten bigger, time has become more valuable and manufacturers, like AriensCo, have been innovating. With those changing trends, the market shifted to one where families are trading in smaller push mowers for the comfort and efficiency of a zero turn lawn mower. With that transformation, it's important for homeowners to be aware of the best safety practices of operating a zero turn lawn mower.

Operating garden tractors and zero turn lawn mowers is like driving a car. Though all Ariens® equipment incorporates both required and voluntary safety features as directed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO), it is important to be aware how to use the machine safely before stepping into the driver's seat.

There's a lot of work that's done behind the scenes to keep our customers and their families safe. Safety is our priority, and that's why it's important for us to do our best to keep conversations of using outdoor power equipment safely at the forefront of the industry and at top of mind for everyone who uses our equipment. We want to help keep you and your family in the same condition from the time you step into the operator's seat to the time you leave it, and that's why we compiled the following safety highlights below.

Operating your n​​​ew mower safely

Shiny, new Ariens zero turn lawn mowers are exciting and appealing. The first thing our customers want to do is hop on and get cutting, but we'd prefer our customers slow down, take their time and become accustomed to operating that sophisticated piece of machinery.

1.     Read the m​​​anual

Among the instructions and important information included in your operator's manual is safety information. All new Ariens equipment comes with a paper copy of the operator's manual, but if your dealer or the store you purchased from didn't supply you with one, call them and arrange a time to get your manual before starting your engine. Electronic versions of the manuals to all our products are located here.​

2.     Learn how to operate the equipment

Slow and steady wins the race. First, understand the functions of all controls, how to operate them, how to stop in an emergency and the machine's braking and steering characteristics. When ready, take your place in the operator's position, start the unit and operate it at low engine throttle to learn how the unit works.

3.     Follow the rule​s

Only allow well-trained, competent adults over the age of 18 operate lawn mowing equipment and adhere to any state and local laws relating to operating outdoor power equipment.

4. Filling the fuel t​ank

​Lawn mower fuel tanks should always be filled with a portable container and never directly from a pump hose. Portable containers should be filled with the manufacturer's fuel recommendation while placed on the ground, and not when they're in a truck bed or on a trailer.

Wearing personal prote​ctive equipment

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, refers to the protective gear you need to wear while working with outdoor power equipment. According to the B71.1 ANSI specifications and the ISO 5395 standards, this includes ear plugs, safety goggles and steel toe boots, at a minimum. Even if you're safely nestled into the seat of an Ariens zero turn lawn mower, clothing choice is a factor.

1.     Gog​​​gles

Glasses aren't the same as safety goggles. To protect your eyes from flying debris, wear goggles that wrap around the top, bottom and sides of your eyes. If you have prescription lenses, look for top, bottom and side shields that can attach to the frames.​

2.     Closed toe footwear

This is best practice, even though operators are spending 99% of their time in the driver's seat. You never know when you need to get off the machine and pick up an obstruction in the yard. Steel toed boots are best.

3.     Hearing pr​otection

Never think a lawnmower mower is quiet enough to go without hearing protection. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), exposure to noises over 85 decibels after an eight-hour period can lead to hearing loss. To put that into perspective, normal conversation happens at around 60 decibels, so it doesn't take much more noise for hearing damage to occur. Don't go without now and regret it later – wear earplugs or earmuffs, whichever is preferred. 

4.     Loose hair and​​ clothing

While moving parts on the mower are covered with guarding, be sure to only operate the mower with long hair tied back, jewelry removed and no loose-fitting clothing.

Cutting grass around childr​​en and pets

Taking pictures of children riding along with mom, dad, grandma or grandpa on the lawnmower may seem harmless and cute, but it's an unsafe practice, and AriensCo strongly advises against it. Children who have been given rides on lawn mowers in the past are more likely to run out to a family member who's cutting the grass so they can have another ride. If the operator isn't expecting that child to be in the mowing area, the child may be unseen and unheard over the noise of the mower by the operator.

1.     Never operate equipme​​nt with children

The operator's position is designed for one person. Riding with children not only leads to the issue outlined above, but a child riding on the lap of an adult is also unsafe. Not to mention, their hearing can be damaged more easily than an adult's hearing.​

2.     Keep children inside

Outdoor power equipment operators have a responsibility to keep children inside while cutting the grass. Not only do children need to be inside, but they need to remain under the watchful eye of a responsible adult to ensure they don't wander outside and into the mowing area where they risk being unseen and unheard.

3.     Watch for chil​dren and pets

Parents know that children can disappear and appear in an instant, this includes from around blind corners or other less-visible areas in the yard. Always approach corners and other blind areas slowly with the expectation that children or pets could enter the immediate area of the mower without warning. 

4.     Stop cutting if a chil​​d or pet enters the area

If you become aware that a child or pet enters the mowing area, stop the mower according to the instructions in the operator's manual and take them back inside.

General oper​ating tips

Outdoor power equipment safety is also relevant when the equipment is not in use. Between mowings, lawn mowers are to be parked in a secure area with good ventilation and on a flat, level surface with the parking brake engaged. Always keep the key removed and in a safe place out of reach of personnel who are not qualified to operate the equipment.

When operating the equipment:

1. Clear the area​​

Before mowing, clear the area of any obstructions like toys and objects that can be damaged or thrown by a mower. Be especially aware of golf balls and other small objects that can hide in tall grass and become projectiles when run over by rotating mower blades, even when a mulching baffle is blocking the discharge chute.

2. Discharge in appro​​​priate directions

Getting close to personal property, like houses, is unavoidable when cutting grass. When cutting near homes, always cut in a direction where the discharge is aimed away from property like homes, cars and lawn ornaments, as well as people who can be injured from flying discharge material.,/p>

3. Operate in optimal ​​​conditions​

Never operate the equipment when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while feeling ill. Additionally, do not operate in the roadway. If you need to operate close to the road, watch for and yield to nearby traffic. Finally, don't try to beat incoming storms. According to the National Weather Service, lightning and it's billion volts of electricity can strike up to 10 miles away from a rain cloud.

4. Be careful on slope​​​​s

According to ANSI, slopes are a major factor related to loss of control and tip-over accidents. Operation on slopes requires extra caution and should be approached slowly, carefully and on slopes of no more than 15 degrees. To minimize the risk of a rollover, always mow up and down slopes, never across, and never mow on a slope that's wet from morning dew, a recent rain shower or irrigation.

If you start to lose traction while mowing a slope with a zero turn mower, disengage the blades, slowly turn away from your cutting row and proceed slowly down the hill. If you sense a total loss of control on a slope, slowly return the steering levers to the neutral position, engage the parking brake, stop the blades and the engine.

Servicing a lawn ​​m​​ower safely

Lots of Ariens owners are Ariens owners because they like the ability to do maintenance and service work themselves. Our machines are designed so regular maintenance and service like lubrication, air filter replacements, oil changes, and belt replacements can be done by just about anyone who's comfortable attempting the procedure. When tinkering in the garage, always park the unit on a flat level surface, engage the parking brake, remove the key from the ignition, wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool, and complete all procedures according to the instructions in your operator's and engine manuals.

1. Work in well-v​​​entilated areas

Leftover exhaust fumes or gasoline fumes can cause dizziness and can be dangerous if inhaled in excess. Always work in a large, open, ventilated area free of flames or sparks.

2. Use jack stan​​​ds

Never, and we mean never trust a hydraulic jack, no matter what specially engineered German manufacturer it's made by or how new it is. Hydraulic jacks can fail, causing the objects they're supporting to fall. If you need to raise part of your unit and don't have a lift, use a hydraulic jack with jack stands and ensure the stands are stable.

3. Don't modify the unit

All Ariens zero turn mowers are designed with a safety interlock feature that is not to be disabled. The safety interlock system is an integration of features that need to be in certain conditions for the mower to start and run. For example, to start, the parking brake must be engaged, the PTO switch must be in the off position or the unit will not start. While running, the system senses operator weight on the seat. If the operator exits the seat while the unit is running and without the parking brake engaged, the mower engine will stop.

All other factory features of an Ariens zero turn mower like belt guarding, the discharge chute deflector and the engine governor settings are to be left alone.

To see the complete list of safety rules for your equipment, read the safety instructions in the front of the operator's manual supplied with your Ariens equipment. If you didn't receive an operator's manual with your equipment, ask your dealer for a copy of the manual or find it online by clicking here.