Mowing Near Embankments and Drop-Offs

Updated: Oct 11, 2019



Its summertime in Indiana and the grass is growing like weeds! Well, hopefully not like weeds but you get my drift. When it comes to mowing, it is important to evaluate all potential hazards that employees are exposed to. Mowing near embankments and drop-offs are among the riskier hazards. Ask yourself, “How close should I mow to drop-offs with no protective barriers?” The correct answer can seem complex. Keep reading and the answer will present itself.


OSHA’s Recommendations for operating a riding mower:

  1. Do not operate mowers on slopes that exceed the angle limits specified by the manufacturer. Look for a label on the mower with this information.

  2. When the manufacturer's instructions are not available or do not specify the angle limits for operating on sloped surfaces, evaluate the terrain and slope conditions to ensure that the mower is operated in a safe manner. Avoid mowing on slopes with an angle of over 15 degrees if there is no other information available.

  3. Use a slope indicator, also known as a clinometer or inclinometer, if you need one. Used to determine slope angles, inclinometers are devices that attach to equipment; applications for mobile devices; or printable versions that can be downloaded online.

  4. Always remove the key when you are leaving a mower unattended, but never leave mowers unattended on a slope. After turning off a mower, the rider/operator should set the brake, remove the key and wait to make sure that all the moving parts have stopped before leaving. The rider cannot assume that the moving parts will stop.

  5. Do not operate mowers in areas where the drive wheels are within five feet, as measured from the outside wheel edge, of the unprotected edges of retaining walls, embankments, levees, ditches, culverts, excavations, or similar locations that present an overturn or roll-over hazard. Use a string trimmer or a push mower instead.

  6. When it is necessary to operate riding mowers near ponds, creeks, reservoirs, canals, sloughs, lakes, golf course water hazards and similar bodies of water, evaluate the terrain and any slope conditions. Establish a safety zone to ensure that the mower is operated at a safe distance from such hazards. Sometimes, a distance of two mower widths is sufficient.


Here is a checklist of mower safety to strengthen practices. Please be safe this summer!

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