Riding safely with ride-on lawnmowers

Published: 
18 Dec 2013

Ride-on lawnmowers pose many risks including serious injury from tipping over and significant risks to bystanders, especially children. Find out how to stay safe when using ride-on lawnmowers.

Hazards, death and injuries

The main hazard to lawnmower riders is where they may fall off and the mower could run over them or fall on them. There is also a hazard to bystanders, where lawnmower riders accidentally run over children or other adults.

There have been hundreds of ride-on lawnmower injuries in Australia, and at least eight people in Australia have died from ride-on lawnmower-related incidents.

Children are at particular risk of severe injuries around ride-on lawnmowers. The majority of these injuries require hospital admission.  Injuries to children can be devastating and life changing with permanent disabilities.  Accidents can happen when children are playing nearby and are reversed over when the user is unaware of their presence. Many others occur when children are allowed to operate the mower or ride as a passenger with an operator, and fall from the mower.

Fatal incident

In March 2012, a 12 year old boy purchased a modified lawn mower to drive around his family property. When riding the mower down a steep hill he lost control and tumbled into a paddock. At the time of the accident, he was not wearing a helmet or any other protective gear. Tragically, he died as a result of his head injuries.

The Brisbane Coroner released findings of the inquest (PDF) into Jake’s death in May 2013. This tragic accident is a reminder that mowers are not designed to be used for non-mowing purpose.

Falls

A ride-on lawnmower can tip and cause a person on it to fall off if the rider:

  • is driving too fast
  • accidentally drives over an object
  • drives across a slope or uneven surface.

Falling can result in serious injuries, especially if the lawnmower then falls on or runs over the rider.

Crushing, amputation and laceration

If a ride-on lawnmower runs over or falls on a person it could crush them and/or amputate their limbs. The mower's blades can lacerate (cut into) the skin and flesh, which can also happen if a person tries to move or change something while the power is still on.

Tips to stay safe while using ride-on lawnmowers

When buying

  • Preferably look for a ride-on lawnmower that's designed to stop the blades cutting while the mower is reversing.
  • When buying a ride-on lawnmower, check whether it’s made according to Australian Standard AS 3792.1 'Ride-on lawnmowers Part 1: Powered rotary ride-on mowers'. This standard helps to ensure the mower is made safe.
  • Where possible, buy ride-on lawnmowers through an authorised dealer and ensure it is working according to manufacturer's specifications.
  • If you're buying a second-hand mower, have it inspected by an authorised dealer to ensure all safety equipment is work properly.

When using

  • Ensure all operators are suitably trained, use all available safety features and wear all available forms of protective clothing. 
  • Read the mower's operating manual and any other safety instructions before you use it (e.g. consult manual to determine the best way to deal with uneven and sloping ground).
  • Before driving, clear any debris from the area and ensure there are no bystanders around, especially children. 
  • Drive the mower with caution to avoid tipping over – always:
    • drive slowly
    • drive especially slowly and take extra care when turning
    • keep your feet on the decking
    • mow up and down on slopes – NEVER mow across.
  • Always check behind you before you reverse in a ride-on lawnmower – just like when driving a car. Scan the surface behind the mower and make sure there are no people, animals or objects before reversing.
  • Make sure you completely shut down the blades before getting off the mower, even if you only get off temporarily for small tasks like clearing things off the ground.
  • If your mower has a seat safety switch, don't override it.
  • Make sure you protect your eyes and legs against any debris flying around the mower. Always wear:
    • eye protection, such as safety glasses or goggles
    • hearing protection
    • appropriate personal protective equipment
    • long trousers that are suitably thick.

Keeping kids safe

Keep children away from ride-on lawnmowers at all times. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne recommends that children under the age of 16 years should not operate a ride-on lawnmower. Follow these tips to keep kids safe:

  • Only a capable adult should use a ride-on lawnmower – children should never operate them.
  • Children should never be allowed to be passengers on ride-on lawnmowers.
  • Users should ensure that children are not playing near or around the area when a ride-on lawnmower is in operation.
  • Remove the ignition key after each use of ride-on lawnmower – this will prevent unauthorised use by anyone including children. 
  • Never leave ride-on lawnmowers unattended while motor is still running.
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