For many of us, the arrival of spring signals the desire to resume the quest to have the best-looking lawn on the block. And even for those who don't enjoy yard work, it's a necessary evil - unless you hire someone to maintain your lawn. Before bringing out those yard machines, though, we must ensure they are ready for another season of lawn maintenance.

With many of us preparing to use our lawn equipment for the first time this season, now is a good time to conduct an inspection to ensure everything is running properly. The inspection should identify problems that may prevent the machine from operating safely. It doesn't matter if the equipment is powered by gasoline or electricity, it should all be given a good safety check after its long winter dormancy. Follow these safety tips prior to and during mower operations.

Before You Start
Aca,!AcInspect your machine for proper installation and operation of all safety guards, switches and levers.
Aca,!AcMake sure you have read or reviewed the operator's manual.
Aca,!AcInspect your yard to ensure no rocks or other hazardous items are hidden in the grass.
Aca,!AcIf the lawn is wet, postpone mowing until conditions are dry.
Aca,!AcEnsure your clothes are durable and fit close to the body to prevent them from being caught on any moving parts. Consider wearing steel-toed safety shoes and never wear sneakers, sandals or flip-flops.
Aca,!AcIf using an electric mower, make sure it is always plugged into a grounded three-prong outlet. Any extension cords used with the mower must also be a grounded three-prong plug and receptacle. Ensure cords are kept clear of the mower deck.

While Mowing
Aca,!AcUse safety glasses and hearing protection.
Aca,!AcAvoid driving a riding mower in reverse as much as possible. When it is necessary to reverse the mower, look back to make sure your path is clear.
Aca,!AcKeep children and pets out of the yard until you are finished mowing.
Aca,!AcKeep the mower over grass and avoid gravel or mulch beds, sidewalks, edging material, etc.
Aca,!AcStay clear of the mowing deck and discharge chute while the motor is running. Never attempt any maintenance procedure until the mower is off and the spark plug wire has been disconnected from the spark plug(s).
Aca,!AcNever allow additional riders on a riding lawn mower.
Aca,!AcNever exceed the slope limits of a mower. Check slope limits in the operator's manual. Operator weight should be a factor in determining slope limits for riding mowers if it has not already been established in the operator's manual.
Aca,!AcBe aware of the muffler location. Keep unprotected skin away when the muffler is hot.
Another important consideration is who may be allowed to use your mower. Serious thought should be given before allowing children under age 16 to operate a riding mower and age 12 for a push mower. Statistics indicate accident risk significantly increases when children younger than these ages operate these types of mowers.

Other Equipment
Don't forget safety when using other lawn equipment such as weed and grass trimmers, hedge trimmers, edging equipment, chain saws and debris blowers/vacuums - all of which pose various hazards and operator risks. The owner's manual is the best place to start. The manual describes the purpose and operation of the safety devices and usually has a safety checklist to use when conducting an equipment inspection.

Modern lawn equipment is safer than ever. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires mower manufacturers install all the up-to-date safety equipment on the machine before it leaves the factory. Because lawn equipment can cause injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to loss of vision and amputations, it's important to maintain factory-installed guards, safety switches and safety levers. They should never be intentionally removed or compromised to defeat their designed purpose.
Maintaining our lawn equipment and its factory-installed safety features reduces the risk of accidental injury. To further ensure our safety, we must exercise judgment when using the equipment. Lawn equipment should always be operated as the manufacturer intended. Working with these basic principles in mind will help ensure our yard maintenance remains accident free for another season.