Lawn Mower Safety

With the welcome of spring comes lush green grass in lawns across America. So, ’tis the season to fire up the lawn mower. For some, mowing the lawn is a necessary chore and for others, a welcomed excuse to spend time outside. For all parties it is a task that requires keen awareness and good judgement.

If you have never accidentally struck a stick, rock, or toy left out on the lawn with your mower, count yourself in the minority. Even if you meticulously scout your lawn for hazards before you mow, you can’t be sure that they’ve been eliminated. An item struck by a mower blade can be flung out the shoot before you even knew you hit it, which can cause damage to your home or worse, an unsuspecting bystander. Accidents with mowers can happen in a split second and sadly, they are not a rare occurrence.

Did you know that 20,000 people each year are injured in lawn mower accidents and an average of 75 people are killed? The United States Amputee-Coalition reports that 800 children are run over by lawn mowers annually and 600 of them require limb amputations. These accidents are 100% preventable. Follow safety guidelines and keep your family from being included in these statistics.

Follow these general precautions before fueling and starting your lawn equipment:

  • Become familiar with proper equipment operation including starting, stopping, and engaging blades and drive before starting.
  • Inspect the unit and attachments for signs of wear and damage.
  • Make sure belts, shafts and connections are properly tensioned or tightened.
  • Verify shields and guards are in place and safety features are not overridden.
  • Only refuel the engine when it is cool.
  • Never smoke when working around fuel sources.
  • Place equipment in neutral and disengage blades before starting, if possible.
  • Never operate equipment in a closed building as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Follow these general precautions when operating any power mower:

  • Remove all litter and debris from the area to be mowed: Rocks, roadside debris and other objects can be deadly when thrown by a mower blade.
  • Only operate the unit on stable ground or footing to avoid potential slips and falls.
  • Only operate self-propelled mowers and riding mowers at safe travel speeds.
  • Do not disable safety features such as auto-clutches and shut off switches, or secure levers and switches in the “on” position to simulate operator presence.
  • Do not leave the unit running unattended.
  • Keep hands and feet away from mowing deck, blades and moving parts.
  • Be aware of bystanders, keep children and pets indoors, and if other bystanders are nearby, allow at least 50 feet of safe distance between them and the mower.
  • Do not operate the equipment when fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Only operate equipment with adequate visibility and light.

For mowing on slopes:

  • Small walk-behind mowers: Mow across slopes to avoid potential for slipping and having feet go under mower deck.
  • Riding mowers: Mow up or down slopes to avoid potential for overturns.

For a regular reminder the Amputee Coalition put together this checklist. Cut it out and post it in a place you see every time you mow, stop by the Extension Office for a copy, or access it online at


Continue caring for your landscape and enjoy your time outside. Remember to keep hydrated and to protect your skin from the sun. Stay smart! Stay safe! Have fun!