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5 ways to stay safe when mowing the lawn

How to protect your family, your pets, and yourself

Published: May 18, 2015 01:15 PM

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Mowing can too often be a job you put off and then rush to finish before dinner or just before guests arrive for a weekend barbecue. And that's when accidents can happen, judging by the estimated 81,108 people—more than 5,000 of them children—who visited emergency rooms in 2014 for mowing injuries. More than 15 were fatalities. Here’s how to keep from becoming a statistic with your walk-behind mower:

Make a walkabout without the mower

Check your lawn for anything that could become a projectile or damage the mower. This includes stray toys or sports gear, fallen tree branches, and rocks.

Inspect your equipment

If you’ve been maintaining a gas-powered mower, all it may need is fueling up. Do this before you start the engine, while it’s still cool; refueling a hot engine can cause vapors to ignite or even explode. And refuel only outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Before you start the mower check the mower-deck height and make any needed adjustments.

Protect yourself

We’ve all seen neighbors mowing in shorts and sandals, but that doesn’t make it okay. Wear sturdy shoes with good traction, not sandals or sneakers, and long pants. Be sure to wear hearing protection. And never circumvent the mower’s bail lever—also referred to as the “deadman” control—to pick up something in your way. (That’s what the walkabout is for.) Gas mowers with a blade-brake clutch stop the rotating blades, not the engine, when you release the bail.

Toro 20353

Protect kids and pets

Young children and pets should stay well away from where you’re mowing, if not kept indoors altogether while you work. And don’t let kids younger than 12 use walk-behind mowers.

Use safe mowing strategies

Don’t mow grass when it’s wet; in addition to the grass being less upright, it’s also very easy to slip while you’re mowing. And if you must mow slopes with a walk-behind mower, mow parallel to the slope.

Need a new walk-behind mower?

See our lawn mower buying guide for tips on choosing a new walk-behind or riding mower. Then check our mower Ratings of 185 walk-behind mowers, lawn tractors, and riding mowers. Our top picks for walk-behind mowers include the self-propelled Honda HRR2169VLA, $500; Toro 20353, $400; and Troy-Bilt TB-280ES 12AGA26G, $340. For a push mower to maintain a small, relatively flat lawn, consider the Craftsman 37432, $220.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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