VIC: safety alert issued following ride-on lawn mower roll over

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.
Monday, 14 November, 2022 - 12:45
Policy & legislation

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the hazards of operating powered mobile plant such as ride-on mowers on and around uneven ground such as embankments 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.

Between 1 January 2010 and 15 May 2022, five deaths have occurred in Victoria involving a ride-on mower rolling over.

The alert recommended a number of ways to control the risk of rollover. Eliminating the need to use a ride-on mower around uneven surfaces such as an embankment, steps or steep slopes is the highest level of control, and elimination could include:

  • landowners converting uneven ground and steep slopes from grass to other types of vegetation that do not require mowing
  • providing a fence along the edge of an embankment to prevent ride-on mowers from accessing the uneven ground or steep slope
  • using alternative means of mowing, for example, a brush cutter, push mower or self-propelled walk-behind mower
  • If you cannot eliminate the risk of roll-over when mowing around the uneven ground and steep slopes, you should reduce it by:
  • visually inspecting the ground conditions to identify and mark no-go zones such as embankments, retaining walls, steps, sink holes and other uneven ground that may be hidden by long grass (for example cutting out with a brush cutter or marking with cones or safety tape)
  • planning the method of mowing to prevent turning or reversing near uneven surfaces such as embankments
  • continually reviewing the environmental conditions including assessing the ground conditions including slope, wet grass, discharged cut grass and removing hidden obstacles

If a ride-on mower rolls over, there is a risk of serious and fatal injuries to the operator. These can occur due to being thrown from the mower or being crushed between the overturned mower and the ground.

To minimise the risks associated with a ride-on mower rolling over, the alert said to consider using a ride-on mower fitted with a Roll-Over Protection Structure (ROPS) and seat belt and ensure operators always wear their seat belt when the ROPS is secured in the up position.