American Society of Safety Engineers Urge People to be Aware of Ride-on Lawnmower Hazards
Des Plaines, IL (July 30, 2009) — Each year many people, unaware of certain hazards, are fatally injured while using a ride-on lawnmower – whether it be at home or while landscaping for work. Due to this risk the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging people to be aware of the possibility of ride-on lawnmowers overturning and to take existing proper precautions to stay safe.
A recent ASSE Professional Safety magazine article titled “Ride-On Lawnmowers – The hazards of overturning” by ASSE member Melvin L. Myers outlines the hazards of powered ride-on lawnmowers and discusses ways to address those dangers. According to the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics 169 employees in the landscaping industry were killed at work in 2006 with a large number being fatally injured while they operated a ride-on lawnmower. One study that showed when the mower tipped or slid resulting in an overturn, 40 percent of those overturns happened on an incline such as a hill, slope or embankment.
Myer’s article is based on a study of collected information on overturn-related injuries and analyzed using the Haddon Matrix, which classifies risk factors by the machine, environment and operator, and by the circumstances that preceded the overturn, the overturn event and actions taken or conditions that followed the overturn.
Myers notes that most overturns occur primarily in areas such as golf courses, community parks and sports fields. His study also found several contributing factors to mower overturns including turns, wet grass, uneven terrain and terrain transition. Other causes of overturns were when the mower hit a root, bump, hole or fence. Another important point to know is that lawn tractors and zero radius (ZTR) mowers have different overturn characteristics — lawn tractors have a side roll and ZTR mowers spin-out to the rear leading to an overturn.
Safety and various state officials have found rollover protective structures (ROPS) and seatbelts to help prevent injuries and fatalities. For instance, if a mower overturns into water the ROPS may protect the operator from being pinned under the water. ROPS were designed to absorb energy in a vehicle overturn and also provide a spring response against the overturn force. Myers notes several standards for ROPS that are available to use for guidance on all types of riding mowers and tractors, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) ANSI B71.4 for Riding Mowers.
As noted, people can be severely injured or killed from a ride-on lawnmower, especially when they overturn. In one study operators aged from 3 to 89 were injured with 15 being female and 64 male. Of the 74 overturn cases, two incidents involved falling over a cliff. Several cases where the operators were killed included drowning, amputations, runovers, asphyxia, fire, being pinned under the mower and more. According to the article the states with the highest number of lawnmower fatalities were Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Myers notes that several federal and state agencies have addressed this issue for many years, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the state of Illinois, and more. However, he concludes that operators should know the hazards involved with riding lawnmowers and know how to address the hazard such as with a ROPS and a seatbelt, and use caution when working on all surfaces.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.