ANYONE WHO'S ever cut a lawn knows well how little fun is involved. Distaste, leads to boredom, boredom breeds inattention, which breeds poor judgement and shortcuts. And about 58,000 times at year in the United States, the whole process leads to a visit to the hospital.
Lawn mover safety standards proposed last year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission have spawined much debate recently in Washington. Opponents of the proposed manufacturing changes, chiefly the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, say the commission's suggested changes may indeed make mowers safer but also less efficient and more costly.
The proposed regulations, contested in varying degrees, include: requirements for greater insulation against electric shock: engineering changes to increase stability and to shield hot surfaces; "deadman" controls that would stop the engine as fast as three seconds after the operator leaves the machine unattended; and greater shielding around the mower base to protest against thrown objects.
The industry claims the commission's safety package could add as much as 24 per cent to the price of a mower, boosting the current average price of a gasoline-powered push mower from $147 to $190. They fear a consumer revolt that would put many smaller manufacturers out of business. The commission, which sets the standards is still holding herrings on the regulations, which will not take effect until sometimes in 1978. The commission thinks regulations should aim at mowers that "anticipate reasonable misuse."
Until the issue is officially resolved, it may benefit mankind - or that portion of mankind in charge of mowing the lawn, at least - to consider some self reformation.
All four of the most common types of mower-related accidents (those caused by contact with a rotating blade, propelled objects, overturning and the mower running over the cictim) can usually be avoided with little or no help from the federal government. The following suggestions, courtesy of the Cosumer Product Safety Commission, are not intended to make the job easier, but safer.
Before You Mow.
Put on a pair of rough-soled work shoes and close-fitting slacks. Sneakers and sandals tend not only to slip on grass but they also provide little protection should that slip direct your foot under the blade housing. The only time you should mow the lawn in bare feet is if you're doing the job with a pair of scissors.
Make sure the fuel tank is filled sufficiently to finish the job. Refusing a mower while it's running or while the engine is hot invites serious trouble.
Take a few minutes to rake the lawn clear of wires, twigs, cans, rocks and anything else that can be sent flying at great speed toward you or a bystander. (The lawn should also be cleared of bystanders, children and sunbathers in particular. The latter make excellent horizontal targets for low-flying projectiles.)
Don't mow a wet lawn. It is not only slippery, but wet grass tends to clog the blades or discharge opening, which tempts users to try unclogging it while the mower is running.
Never leave the mower without stopping the engine. (And, if you intendto unclog it, disconnect the spark plug wire, too. A slight rotation of the blades can start the engine again.)
Be sure of your footing. If you're pushing a hand mower, steer it across a slope, not up and down, Riding mowers should be operated conversely: up and down a slope, never across one.
For those who are considering purchase of a new lawn mower, the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests you look for the following.
A discharge chute with a deflector plate to direct machine discharge downward, which should be in use when no grass-catching bag is used.
A foot guard in the rear to keep the operator's foot from the blade.
A fuel exhaust that is not located on the same side of the mower as the discharge chute. Sparks from a backfiring engiine could ignite a grass-catching bag.