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Basic Riding Mower Safety

While using a lawn tractor or other type of riding lawn mower can significantly reduce the amount of time needed to care for your lawn, it's important to thoroughly understand the machine so that you can safely operate it. Because lawn tractors and riding mowers move much faster than a walk-behind mower, all it takes is a small lapse of attention to cause an accident or an injury.

Before You Mow

  • Understand all of the components of your riding mower or lawn tractor, and thoroughly read its operation manual before ever starting the machine.
  • Check to make sure that the mower's operator-presence control system, a safety feature that shuts off the blades when the operator dismounts the machine or rises from the seat, is functioning properly.
  • Know how to stop the lawn mower engine quickly in the event of an emergency.
  • If your lawn tractor is equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS), be sure that it is installed properly. Never operate a ROPS-equipped tractor without this protective structure in place.
  • Confirm that the mower's blade drive belt is set at the proper tension and that it is free of debris.
  • Check for proper functioning of the interlocks that prevent the lawn mower engine from starting while the mower is in gear or the blade is engaged.
  • Do not remove or disable guards or other safety devices.
  • Dress properly for the job. Always wear substantial shoes or safety boots, long pants and close-fitting clothes. Wear heavy work gloves to protect your hands when handling the blades and other items that might be sharp or have nicks or metal burrs on the edges.
  • Before you start mowing, clean up the area and clear the lawn of pets and people, especially children.

Operating a Riding Lawn Mower

  • Fill your gasoline tank only when the engine is cold. If you need to refuel before completing a job, turn off the lawn tractor or riding mower and allow the engine to cool.
  • Avoid spilling any gasoline during the refilling process, and never smoke or light a match around gasoline.
  • Before starting your lawn tractor or riding mower, inspect it for loose belts or other damaged components.
  • Always start your riding mower or lawn tractor from the operator's seat. Never start the machine while standing beside it.
  • Riding mowers and lawn tractors are one-person machines. Operate from the driver's seat only, keeping both feet on the tractor at all times, and never carry any passengers, especially children.
  • Take care not to throw a unit into gear accidentally, which could cause it to jerk ahead unexpectedly.
  • When operating a riding mower on uneven terrain, use extreme care. Always mow up and down slopes—never across—and avoid sudden starts, stops or turns.
  • To prevent tipping, decrease your speed when going down slopes or around sharp corners.
  • Maintain a minimum ground speed and make turns wide and gradual.
  • Never dismount from or jump off a riding mower or lawn tractor with the engine running. Always observe proper shutdown procedures before dismounting.
  • Routinely remove any accumulations of grass, leaves or excessive grease to reduce fire hazard.

Following these safety tips as recommended by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute will ensure that your mowing tasks are as safe and enjoyable as possible.