For many, spring means getting out the lawn mower and keeping the grass cut and trimmed. Some may look at the old mower and decide it’s time for a new one. But everyone needs to remember that lawn mowing can be one of the most dangerous tasks in the home and there are some things to remember when you buy a new mower and then start using it.
If you are shopping for a walk-behind rotary lawn mower, consider the following factors which may affect mowing operations:
- Who will be using the machine most of the time? Will they tire quickly if they have to push the mower all the while or would a better choice be a self-propelled mower?
- Does the mower have deflectors at the discharge chute that force objects thrown from it to be ejected toward the ground rather than upward in the air?
- Does the mower start easily? Ignition systems have been improved to simplify manual starting of the mower.
- Is it easy to operate? Are controls within easy reach? Is the handle adjustable so others can use the mower without difficulty?
- Do you want to vary the cutting height of the grass during the growing season? Manufacturers use several methods to adjust the cutting height, including wheel levers and bolted wheels. Consider the ease with which you can adjust the cutting height when shopping for a mower.
Consider your preferences for lawn care
- If you don’t bag grass clippings as you cut the lawn, then you will likely find the “engine kill” mower quite acceptable. With this machine, the engine will shut down
and the rotary blade will stop within three seconds after you release your grip on the operator controls. With this “engine kill” mower, the pull-rope starter must be located within 24 inches of the top handle, or the protective foot shield must surround the entire mower housing.
- If you use a grass catcher to bag lawn clippings, then the mower which features the blade brake clutch should be considered. With this mower, the rotary blade stops within three seconds after you release the operator control bar, but the engine continues to operate. This allows you to empty the grass catcher frequently (the blade being stopped) without having to turn off the engine. When the catcher is returned in place, you simply engage the operator control to resume cutting grass. On these mowers, the starter cord may be found on top of the engine housing.
- Can you do some mower maintenance yourself or is the machine so complex that it must be returned to the mower shop for routine maintenance and repairs?
Using the walk-behind lawnmower
Here are some suggestions for the safe use of rotary lawn mowers:
- Fill the fuel tank before starting the engine to cut the lawn. Never refuel the mower when it is running or while the engine is hot.
- Check the lawn for debris (twigs, rocks and other objects) before mowing the lawn. Objects have been struck by the mower blade and thrown out from under the mower, resulting in severe injuries and deaths.
- Don’t cut the grass when it’s wet. Wet clippings will probably clog the discharge chute, ultimately could jam the rotary blade and shut down the engine. When you need to remove clippings from the chute, the rotary blade must be stopped.
- Wear sturdy shoes with sure-grip soles when using the mower, never sneakers, sandals or with bare feet. Slacks rather than shorts offer better protection for the legs.
- Never allow young children to operate a power lawn mower.
- Children should not be allowed on or near the lawn when the rotary mower is in use. Push the mower forward, never pull it backward.
- If the lawn slopes, mow across the slope with the walk-behind rotary mower, never up and down. With a riding mower, drive up and down the slope, not across it.
- Don’t remove any safety devices on the mower. Remember that the safety features were installed to help protect you against injury. Check safety features often and repair or replace if needed.
- With an electric mower, organize your work so you first cut the area nearest the electrical outlet, then gradually move away. This will minimize chances of your running over the power cord and being electrocuted.
- Read the owner’s manual to become familiar with the workings of the machine. Keep the manual in a safe place so it will be handy when you need it the next time.
- Check the manual for hints on performing routine maintenance, checking engine oil levels and fluid in powered wheel drives, and performing maintenance when the mower is stored during the off-season.
Older walk-behind rotary mowers
If you cut grass with a pre-standard older rotary mower, use extreme caution. Remember that the machine does not have the safety features of the newer equipment.
- If clippings jam the discharge chute, first shut off the engine. The blade must come to a complete stop before you attempt to clear the jam. If you try to clear the chute while the blade rotates, your fingers could be amputated.
- Push the mower forward, never pull it backward.
- If you want to adjust the cutting height on any machine, do so before starting the engine. The blade should always be stationary.
- Shut down the engine if you leave the operator position for any reason. If you wish to disable the mower so no one can use it, simply remove the ignition wire from the spark plug or remove the spark plug.
Information courtesy: US Consumer Product Safety Commission