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Mower Safety, Just Good Business Sense
Much has been written over the years on equipment safety, but like the safety instructions a flight attendant tells us before we take off, nobody really pays full attention - until something goes horribly wrong.

By Brian Lowe
Director of Sales & Marketing
Progressive Turf Equipment Inc.

In the farming industry, incident statistics are staggering and numbing. They should jolt each one of us to pay greater attention to what we and our colleagues are doing.

No matter how many acres are in sod production, mowers are used more frequently and for more hours than any other piece of equipment on a sod farm. The high utilization and the long useful life of a mower can lead to complacency in its operation and maintenance. Complacency ranks right up there with improper or no training as a leading factor in mishaps.

Take a look at your own equipment. Are all the PTO guards in place? Are all the belt covers in place and properly secured? Are the blades balanced and fastened securely? Are the blades genuine OEM parts? Are the decks in good condition? If you answered "no" to any of the above, you need to reassess your maintenance practices.

Your mower might cut just fine with a deck belt cover missing, and heck it is easier to change the belts too. While no one should ever be close to a mower when it is running . . . well that's unfortunately how statistics are generated.

What about the operators? Are they properly trained and retrained? Do they understand their responsibility? Are they competent to watch for and anticipate how an accident could happen? Have they recently read and understood the warnings in the operator's manual and signed off that they have? Do you have the proper manual with the equipment? Do you have their training documented?

As an owner or farm manager, you have certain responsibilities under the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA):

OSHA Training Requirements (USA)
The following training requirements have been taken from Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations Part 1928.57 (a)(6).

Operator Instructions. At the time of initial assignment and at least annually thereafter, the employer shall instruct every employee in the safe operation and servicing of all covered equipment with which he is or will be involved, including at least the following safe operating practices.

  • - Keep all guards in place when the machine is in operation;
  • - Permit no riders on farm field equipment other than persons required for instruction or assistance in machine operation;
  • - Stop engine, disconnect the power source, and wait for all machine movement to stop before servicing, adjusting, cleaning, or unclogging the equipment, except where the machine must be running to be properly serviced or maintained, in which case the employer shall instruct employees as to all steps and procedures which are necessary to safely service or maintain the equipment;
  • - Make sure everyone is clear of machinery before starting the engine, engaging power, or operating the machine;

While this list is not all encompassing, it shows the scope of the responsibility the owner or farm manager holds, no matter where you live and work. The key is to train and retrain.

As a manufacturer, our focus is always on developing and producing high value, productive equipment that gets the job done - safely! Owners and operators are key elements in achieving this goal.

For more information on drive line safety, click on the "SAFETY" heading on the left hand side.

Common sense guidelines
  • - Always wear protective equipment, including safety glasses, gloves and hearing protection as required.
  • - Ensure the tractor is NOT running before connecting the PTO and that it is connected properly.
  • - Ensure all covers are in place and the blades are in good condition and securely fastened.
  • - Make sure there are no bystanders adjacent to the mower or tractor and ensure no one is directly behind the mower at start-up.
  • - Never engage the PTO at high rpm and always increase RPM slowly.
  • - When transporting, know and observe the rules of the road.

A note about blades:
  • - Always use genuine OEM parts. At the high tip speeds modern mowers achieve, why would you settle for a discount blade?
  • - Never straighten a bent blade.
  • - Never use a cracked blade.
  • - Never repair a blade other than sharpening.
  • - If the blade is damaged or the cutting surfaces are worn too thin, replace the blade.
  • - Always use the specified blade (type and length) for the mower and type of mowing you do.

"Safety should always be in everyone's sight, not just the operator's."

Lowe, Brian. "Mower Safety, Just Good Business Sense". Business Management Newsletter - June/July 2012: Page 4. http://www.TurfGrassSod.org

Article reprinted with permission from Turfgrass Producers International (TPI)

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