Zero Turn Mower Safety and Using ROPS is Serious Business!
Roll-Over Protective Structure or more commonly called ROPS are bars or a framed structure such as a cab that are designed to protect operators in case of a rollover. There are thousands of reported injuries involving riding lawn mowers each year and even deaths have occurred. The most common death scenario with riding lawn mowers is when the machine is overturned where the operator is crushed or pinned beneath it. ROPS are designed to be used with a seatbelt protecting the operator. It's common for operators to lower their ROPS while mowing under low-hanging vegetation. While doing so risk for operator injury is greatly increased. It is recommended to hand trim the low-hanging vegetation to allow space for the ROPS to be used at all times. There are other ways to protect yourself from a rollover incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers assessment for what types of equipment should be used on slopes and different types of terrains. As you can see in the picture below not using the ROPS bar in a roll-over accident doesn't allow for much if any room for an operator causing them to be crushed.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission states “Hazards most often associated with riding equipment are blade contact and loss of stability.” CPSC estimated in 2010-2012 there were 34,000 consumer injuries related to riding lawn mower incidents that were reported to the commission. The reported annual average of fatal incidents was an average of 90 per year from 2007-2009. Common patterns involved with these accidents: the victim falls off, are thrown from the machine, ran over by the machine or the machine can tip over onto the victim.
OSHA Suggested Slope Safety Standards
0° to 15° slope – riding mowers or tractor mowers are approved for these areas
15° to 22° slope – tractor mowers are approved for use on these areas
22° and up slope – these areas are mowed with string trimmers, push mowers or specialized equipment; specialized equipment can be riding mowers intended for use on slopes
Within 5 feet of a drop-off – a buffer zone is maintained; only string trimmers and push mowers can be used inside this zone
Zero Turn Mowers should never be used on slopes where operators are unable to back up on when the mowing deck is down. They also shouldn't be used on slopes that are wet from rain or watering because the slippery grass makes it harder for the mowers wheels to maintain traction. Zero Turn Mowers should always be used at a steady and consistent pace. Making sudden turns at high speeds increases the chance of a rollover. View the video below which talks about zero turn mower slope safety and importance of ROPS. In some cases there could be a need to fold the bar down, such as when mowing around trees with low-hanging branches. If that is the case, a good approach would be to first mow around these areas with the ROPS bar folded down (as long as you're on flat even ground), and then raise the ROPS back into the proper "up" position to finish mowing the rest of the property.
The Kentucky Community Partners for Healthy Farming ROPS Project
In September 2000 the University of Kentucky published it's research from a 5 year long study to promote the health and safety for farmers using ROPS. This is a 40 page long report about Roll-Over Protective Structures. The materials in this collection were developed and field tested with federal funds. Many thank this project to be one of the reasons ROPS are available on most riding lawn mowers today.
Developed by the University of Kentucky KY CPHF ROPS Project during 1996-00 with support from CDC/NIOSH Cooperative Agreements U07/CCU408035-05-2 and 06-1 and U06/CCU412900-01, -02, and -03 to the University of Kentucky, Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention. Click Here for all associated parties.
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