A safety switch on a riding lawn mower provides vital protection. Safety switches stop a mower's rotary blades from turning. That is important because coming in contact with the powerful blades can cause amputation or death. Mowers are equipped with a safety switch called an Operator Presence Control device. The switch is in the seat and is the only emergency safety switch on riding mowers.
Turning off the ignition or applying the brake are other forms of safety features, but are not official safety switches as recognized by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission also urges purchasers of riding lawn mowers to look for seat backs at least 4 ½ inches to provide more support while riding.
Thousands of people are injured annually in riding mower incidents. Losing control of the mower and coming in contact with the blades are the biggest risk factors. That is why manufacturers provide a safety switch in the seat. Safety switches in or under seats can determine if an operator is still controlling the mower. The safety switch monitors pressure on the seat and will shut off power to the blades if it senses the seat is unoccupied.
The location of the safety switch is a key reason why only one person should ride a mower at a time. The safety switch will not engage if an adult and a child are riding in the mower and the child falls off. The adult likely would quickly stop the mower, but in the seconds that takes the child could be injured.
Only responsible adults should operate riding lawn mowers. A good rule of thumb is to allow a person to operate your riding lawn mower only if you would also trust the person with your automobile.
Read and follow all safety instructions provided with your riding lawn mower. Do not place your hands or feet near rotating blades or under the machine. Also, keep your feet clear of the discharge opening. Cut grass shoots out of the discharge opening and could include sticks, stones or other debris that may injure you. Always look behind you when backing and try to avoid mowing in reverse whenever possible. Cut only dry grass, ideally, to improve traction and control.
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