Regulators issue safety reminder on lawnmower safety

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 17 February, 2023 - 12:45
Industry news
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently issued a warning about the safe operation of lawnmowers following a number of incidents in which workers have been injured or killed by the machines.

A worker in the South East of South Australia was killed in October 2022 when the ride-on mower he was operating tipped on sloping ground.

Slopes, drop-offs, ditches, embankments and edges are major factors related to loss-of-control and tip-over incidents, which can result in severe injury or death.

The regulator said operating a ride-on lawnmower on all slopes and near any hazardous surroundings requires extra caution.

The risks are similar to those faced by quad bike riders, particularly on farms, and there have been more than 150 deaths associated with quad bikes since 2011. About 60 per cent of these deaths were caused by the rollover.

Even at slow speeds, a quad bike or a ride-on mower can roll over and trap or crush the rider underneath, resulting in the inability to breathe under the weight of the machine.

When operating a ride-on mower or quad bike the regulator said it is important to:

  • Ensure the machine and any other equipment are appropriate for use and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Know the capabilities and limitations of the ride-on mower or quad bike
  • Always refer to operator’s manuals or manufacturer’s instructions for safety instructions and equipment specifications
  • Identify any hazards associated with the work – consider the ground conditions, inclement weather and any other environmental factors
  • Conduct a risk assessment, in consultation with operators if there is any uncertainty about the hazards or established risk control measures
  • Ensure that workers are provided with suitable training, information and instruction to operate the machine safely.

The warning from SafeWork SA follows a recent safety alert from WorkSafe Victoria about the hazards of operating powered mobile plant such as ride-on mowers on and around uneven ground such as embankments.

The alert was issued following an incident in which a gardener lost their life while they were mowing using a zero-turn ride-on mower.

At the time of the incident, the deceased was mowing near an embankment when the ride-on mower rolled over causing fatal injuries. It is understood their zero-turn mower rolled sideways down a 60-degree embankment approximately 1.94m long, pinning them under the mower at the bottom of the embankment. The mower was not fitted with a rollover protection device.