April proves fatal for Southwest landscapers

Riding mowers should always be kept away from steep embankments and water.

With springtime ushering in a new season of growth, landscapers across the country are hard at work returning lawns and flower beds to their pristine, pre-winter states. Although a job some contractors would deem low-risk, a recent rash of fatal incidents reminds us just how important it is to observe the proper health and safety measures when landscaping.

This April, three landscapers in OSHA's Southwest Region died when their riding mowers or tractors overturned into water or a stream bed, the Associated Press reported. The three deaths make this April as deadly as the last six years combined when it comes to such incidents, a federal safety official said.

The incidents all occurred on slopes or embankments, where mowers and tractors are far more prone to tipping. According to Eric Harbin, acting regional administrator for OSHA's Southwest Region, employers can reduce this risk by instructing landscapers to stay at least 5 feet away from steep grades whenever possible, and never to ride mowers within two mower-lengths from water.

OSHA also recommends the following best practices for operating ride-on mowers and tractors safely:

  • Equip mowers with roll-over protective structures when recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Use seat belts on all mowers equipped with ROPS. 
  • Make sure all mowers have a working operator presence control system, which shuts off the blades when the operator leaves the seat. 
  • Install interlocks to ensure the engine cannot start while the mower is in gear or if the blade is engaged.
  • Use a slope indicator, or inclinometer, to determine whether a hill is safe to ride on.
  • Never leave mowers unattended on a slope. 
  • Inspect all mowers prior to use to ensure all safety features are in place and functioning properly. 

Proper training is integral to making sure your workforce is prepared to use its equipment safely, especially at the start of a new year of seasonal work. For health and safety training classes that can get your employees up to speed on the latest OSHA regulations, look no further than Safety Advantage. 

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