This practice describes the requirements for inspection and safe operation of lawn equipment (such as lawn mowers, weed trimmers and chain saws).  It applies to work activities performed at the College. 


Dead Man Switch (Interlock) - A switch that deactivates or deenergizes equipment when the operator releases his or her grip on the controls or when the operator leaves the equipment.

Kick-Back - An action occurring when the material being cut catches the chain of a chain saw causing the chain saw to jerk back towards the operator.

Push Pole - A piece of lumber or a tree limb that has a notch or fork used to push against a small tree to force the tree to fall in a certain direction.

Operator qualifications

The operator must be trained in the safety features of the equipment and know how to properly operate it according to the manufacturer’s operating instructions.

The supervisor must verify that the operator of the equipment has the proper qualifications.


An experienced operator must inspect lawn mowers, weed cutters, and chain saws before each use.  At a minimum, inspections will include the following:

  • Checking all equipment to verify that proper guards are in place and in good working order. 
  • Checking the fuel system for leaks that can develop due to vibration.  If leaks are found, the equipment must be repaired or removed from use.
  • Checking all equipment to confirm that it is equipped with a dead man switch; if required, it must be in good working condition.  Any tool with a defective dead man switch must be repaired or removed from use.
  • Checking the mechanical components of the equipment for wear and stability.  Mechanical parts such as mower blades, weed-cutter heads, and chain saw cutting chains, if worn or unstable, could become airborne during operation.

Potential Hazards

Lawn mowers, weed cutters, leaf blowers, and chain saws can expose operators to a variety of hazards including:

  • Exposure to chemicals
  • High noise levels
  • Moving machinery
  • Electrical hazards
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Adverse weather-related hazards
  • Poisonous snakes
  • Poisonous plants

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Operators of lawn mowers must wear safety glasses, safety toe footwear, work gloves, and hearing protection.

Operators of weed cutters must wear safety glasses, safety toe footwear, leg protection, work gloves, and hearing protection.  A full-face shield over safety glasses is highly recommended.

Operators of chain saws must wear safety glasses, steel-toe shoes, protective chaps and jackets, work gloves, hearing protection, and a full-face shield.

Operators of leaf blowers must wear safety glasses, hearing protection, and steel-toe shoes.

Supervisors will review the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) worn while operating lawn equipment and chain saws to confirm that they provide adequate protection. 

If in doubt, consult with EHS to determine the appropriate type of PPE for a particular task.


While planning and administering work, the supervisor must perform at least the following:

Review the work area to identify any hazards and provide a plan for executing the work.  Possible hazards include steep banks, exposed electrical lines at ground level, loose gravel in grassy areas, and raised sprinkler heads.

Involve the electrical supervisor in planning the use of equipment around substations, exposed cables, lines, and other types of electrical equipment.

Avoid assigning employees to work alone in remote areas.  If an employee must work alone in a remote work area, a process must be in place to deal with communications, transportation, and immediate first-aid treatment for employees.

Workplace Controls

At a minimum, employees must adhere to the following requirements while operating and maintaining lawn mowers, weed cutters, and chain saws:

  • Do not remove or bypass any dead man switch or other safety mechanisms or devices to run the equipment.
  • Check the work area for debris, obstacles, or hazards that may have been placed in the work area since the last activity; the area should also be checked for snakes, wasp nests, and hornet nests; employees should be alert for these and other biological hazards.
  • Shut off gas powered equipment and allow it to cool before refueling.  Use funnels or extended nozzles to avoid spilling fuel onto the equipment and the ground.

Operating equipment

Lawn Mowers

Operators must take the following minimum safety precautions while operating lawn mowers:

  • Do not use lawn mowers on steep inclines, drainage ditches, or areas where the mower may overturn or roll back on the operator.
  • Do not put your hands or feet anywhere on or under a mower while it is running, other than on the surfaces designed for operating the mower.  This precaution also applies to mechanics performing repairs.
  • Do not stand in front of the cutting discharge area.
  • Do not remove the catch bag while the mower is running.

Weed Trimmers 

Operators must take the following minimum safety precautions while operating weed cutters:

  • Be careful when using weed cutters close to objects subject to damage.  The cutting radius of a weed cutter is difficult to determine and maintain during operation.  An object may be damaged or become airborne if hit by the weed cutter.
  • Do not operate weed cutters closer than 25 feet (7.6 meters) to other employees or in restrictive spaces.

Chain Saws

Operators must take the following minimum safety precautions while operating chain saws:

  • Before cutting the approved material, inspect and clear it of foreign objects such as nails, wire, and rocks.
  • The idle speed on chain saws will be adjusted so that the chain does not move when the engine is idling.
  • Chain saws will have an automatic chain brake or kickback device.
  • Never use a chain saw to cut above the operator’s shoulder height.
  • Do not use the tip of a chain saw for cutting or allow it to inadvertently touch a limb not being cut.
  • To avoid kick-back, be extremely cautious when cutting small limbs.
  • Always cut away from you.
  • Always hold the chain saw firmly with both hands.
  • Do not place your hands or feet on the material being cut to stabilize it.  Secure the object by other means.
  • When tree work is being performed, anyone working below shall be protected against the danger of something falling from above by either barricading the area below, or by wearing a hard hat.

Hedge Trimmers

When using a hedge trimmer, operators must adhere to the following minimum requirements:

  • Always keep both hands positioned on the hedge trimmer while it is in use.
  • Always cut away from you.

Traffic Hazards

When using equipment in the vicinity of vehicular traffic, it is important that you are protected from traffic hazards.  The following steps will help ensure you are safe.

  • Wear a high-visibility vest at all times.
  • When working near curbs, or at the edge of the roadway, place traffic cones at a sufficient distance between the work area and approaching vehicles.
  • Alternatively, have a grounds vehicle with flashing lights follow behind you to alert approaching vehicles of your presence.


Supervisors shall ensure that Grounds personnel who operate lawn and chain saw equipment have been properly trained per the manufacturer’s safe operating procedures.