Mowing of grass is a major task undertaken by the greenkeeping department and the following equipment can be used for the activity:
- Use of tractor mounted mowing units - generally large PTO driven gang mowers used for large areas particularly semi-rough terrain.
- Ride on mowing equipment - purpose built ride on equipment used primarily on fairways, semi-rough and edges of bunkers.
- Pedestrian controlled mowers - rotary mowers, hover mowers generally used for the greens, banks and any area that require delicate or more focused cutting.
Serious accidents with any type of mowing equipment can occur if appropriate precautions are not taken during their use.
The main hazards and risks associated with the use of mowers include:
- Contact with moving blades.
- Cuts from handling sharp mower blades.
- Contact with moving drive mechanisms and chains.
- Being crushed either during use of the mower or whilst carrying out maintenance beneath it.
- Being hit by flying debris or damaged parts being ejected from machinery.
- Overturning of equipment whilst it is being used on slopes, banks or the edges of bunkers and water hazards.
- Contact with power take off (PTO) shafts.
- Insufficient guarding on machinery.
- Use of incompatible parts on equipment (replacement blades, chains, guarding).
- Incidence of upper musculoskeletal disorders due to repetitive movements and vibration.
- Excessive noise levels.
The means of controlling hazards from mowers and mowing operations cover include:
- Proper training.
- Preventing access to dangerous parts by the use of guards, interlocks or work processes.
- Proper maintenance of the equipment.
- Assessment of other associated hazards such as noise, vibration, etc.
- Daily briefings and control of the use of the equipment based on the prevailing weather.
Employees should only be allowed to operate mowing equipment when fully trained in both the operation of the equipment and the safe procedures to be followed for its use. Employees can be sent on appropriate training courses run by organisations such as agricultural colleges, mower manufacturers and Lantra.
Training should include:
- Safe use of equipment on slopes.
- Safe use of equipment on the flat.
- Safe use of equipment in close proximity to bunkers and sudden drops.
- Safe practices for working in close proximity to deep water.
- Manual handling of equipment.
- Procedures covering the clearing of blockages. This includes ensuring equipment is switched off, de-energised and blades have stopped moving.
- Procedures for ensuring the safety of bystanders and other third parties.
- The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including protective gloves, hi-visibility protective clothing, bump caps, ear defenders, etc.
- Safety procedures involving the use of PTOs.
- Specific mowing hazards for the course that they are employed.
Access to dangerous moving parts of the machinery or areas where debris may be ejected should be properly guarded.
This should include:
- Stand-off guards.
- Protective skirting.
- Guards to PTO shafts and guards to drive chains and other moving mechanical parts.
Guarding should be designed and compatible with the piece of equipment. Only guarding specified by manufacturers and properly fitted should be in place. Guarding should always be in place before work commences.
- Safety cut offs are working i.e. dead man's handle & weight sensitive cut off on ride on equipment.
- Seatbelts are in place (where applicable).
- Rollover protection is in place (where applicable).
- No excessive noise or vibration is being generated.
- Tyres are inflated and free from defects.
- No other visible defects are present.
Some routine maintenance tasks may be carried out in house but others may require work to be done by the manufacturer or a specialist contractor.
Work should only be done by those:
- With the necessary qualifications and experience.
- Deemed competent to carry out the tasks.
Maintenance tasks should cover the upkeep of safety devices including guarding and items such as slip clutches. All parts replaced should be in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications and instructions for fitting.
Whilst carrying out maintenance tasks it is important that care is taken to ensure that equipment is de-energised before work commences and that the equipment is isolated from power supplies.
If working beneath the equipment it should be well supported using appropriate axel supports which are properly positioned to ensure stability.
Assessments should be made for the risks from vibration, noise levels and manual handling issues experienced whilst using the equipment. Protective control measures may need to be introduced where necessary.
These may include:
- Replacement of equipment with quieter or less vibration producing machines.
- Review of maintenance routines.
- Time limits on the use of equipment.
- Employee training on the use of equipment and the risks to health from excessive noise and vibration.
- Employee training on manual handling and use of mowing equipment.
- Provision of appropriate PPE (gloves, hearing protection, etc).
Daily Briefings and Equipment Use Control
It is important to consider the condition of the course and the prevailing weather for the day before planning works that involve mowing. Mowing the course whilst wet means the traction that is often relied upon for ride on equipment and tractor mounted mowing will be reduced. It is recommended that the Head Greenkeeper, as part of their daily briefings considers both the existing course condition and the weather for the day prior to planning any mowing activities, particularly in more hazardous areas such as:
- Edges of bunkers and steep tees.
- Edges of water hazards.
The main requirements to manage the safety of mowing activities are:
- Completion of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
- Providing staff with information, instruction and training to carry out tasks safely.
- Servicing and maintenance of all equipment being used when using or repairing the machinery.
- Providing a suitable working area to carry out maintenance e.g. refueling.
- Provision of suitable personal protective equipment for staff.
- Health surveillance of staffs exposure to noise and vibration.
Questions to Consider
- Is there a register of all persons authorised to operate mowing machinery?
- Are all guards in place for the mowing equipment?
- Are exposure levels to both noise and vibration being monitored?
- Is personal protective equipment being worn and stored correctly?
- Are jobs involving mowers, rotated between staff, to prevent exceeding exposure levels?
- Are repairs on the course carried out in a timely basis?
The above guidance provides an introduction on the main requirements needed to adequately manage this health and safety topic. If you require further guidance, risk assessments or template documentation on this subject please consult your relevant full guidance health and safety website (BIGGA, England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf). If you do not hold the log in details for this website, for your club, please speak to your golf club management team to identify who the account administrator is and request the details.