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With care, you can avoid mower mishaps

Thousands of people are injured in lawn mower accidents every year. Eighty percent of those mishaps involve severed fingers or toes.

Here are some safety tips:

When purchasing a lawn mower

Buy a walk-behind mower that has an Outdoor Power Equipment Institute stamp near the chute. This shows the machine has met certain safety standards.

Buy a riding mower certified to meet the American National Standards Institute requirements.

Carefully read and follow the safety instructions in the owner's manual. Note that some safety instructions may be on the body of the mower.

Before you mow

Clear the yard of stones, wire, sticks, toys and other objects or debris that swiftly turning mower blades can turn into dangerous missiles. Set the blade height for at least 2 to 3 inches. Use a mounted grass catcher bag to prevent accidents caused by flying objects. Never run a mower over gravel.

Never wear sneakers or sandals or go barefoot when using a power mower. Closed-toe shoes, preferably with metal toe guards, are best.

Don't wear loose clothing or jewelry while mowing. Tie back long hair.

Check the fuel level before starting the mower. Fill the gas tank outdoors while the engine is cold, not when it's running. If you need to add fuel, let the engine cool for several minutes after running. Don't smoke. Stay away from heat sources. Wipe up any spills immediately. Be sure that the gas cap is replaced securely.

Make sure the machine is on level ground when you start it. Stand clear of the blades.

When mowing

Mow only when grass is dry. You may slip and fall on wet grass; it can also clog the mower.

Turn the engine off if you need to leave the mower unattended, even for a few minutes.

Once the mower is running, never raise or tilt it.

Allow no one, especially children and pets, in the area where you are mowing. If someone should approach you, turn off the engine.

Never carry passengers on a riding mower. Look behind you before you back up, to be sure no one has strayed into the area.

Mow slowly with a riding mower and avoid holes and sudden drops, which could cause the machine to overturn.

Be sure the blade on your riding mower is disengaged and the transmission is in park before putting your foot on the ground.

Always put the mower away after you use it. But first let the engine cool.

Maintenance safety

When working on a mower, be sure it can't accidentally start. Turn off the engine or unplug an electric mower and wait for the blades to stop. With a gasoline-powered mower, disconnect the spark plug wire. Don't allow the wire to dangle. Pull the rubber insulator back, expose the connector clip, and ground it by attaching securely to an engine-cooling fin. Some mowers have a special grounding tab, near the cooling fin, to which the clip can be attached. Or remove the spark plug completely.

Periodically check over the machine. Make sure nuts, bolts and screws are tight. Remove grass, debris and excessive grease from the engine. Check to see that all guards, shields and safety devices are in place. Replace or repair damaged or defective parts.

When turning the mower on its side to make a repair or for cleaning, make sure the oil fill hole is higher than the crankcase to prevent oil from running out.

Shut off the engine and wait for all moving parts to stop before unclogging the discharge chute or removing the grass catcher.

Frequently remove debris from the blades with a stick or putty knife. Disconnect the spark plug first, or unplug an electric mower.

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