Take care with riding mowers on slopes


Operate a riding mower up and down slopes – never across them.


Riding mowers seem more popular than ever for trimming the lawn. A self-propelled riding mower with a seated or standing operator is designed to cut larger grassy areas such as residential lawns, golf courses, cemeteries and parks.

While riding mowers can efficiently mow flat areas, using them to mow on slopes can be hazardous. Serious injury or death has been associated with riding equipment when the vehicle loses stability and tips or rolls over, causing contact with the blade. Fatalities have been reported when the operator falls off the machine or is run over by it.

  • Read and understand all instructions in the owner’s manual and on the mower before operating.
  • Keep children and pets away from the mowing area; only adults should operate the mower.
  • Clear the area of rocks, toys and other objects that could be thrown by the blades.
  • Never carry passengers.
  • Check the manual or labels on the mower for the maximum slope level that can be safely mowed. Do not operate mowers on slopes that exceed the angle limits specified by the manufacturer.
  • Avoid mowing on slopes or surfaces with an angle of more than 15 degrees if you cannot find a specific slope limit in your documentation.
  • Do not mow on wet grass – tires can lose traction on wet surfaces.
  • Mow up and down slopes, never across.
  • Watch for holes, ruts, bumps, rocks or hidden objects. Uneven terrain could overturn the machine.
  • Keep the machine in gear when going down slopes. Do not shift to neutral and coast downhill.
  • Avoid starting, stopping or turning on a slope. If the tires lose traction, disengage the blade(s) and go slowly down the slope.
  • Go slowly and gradually on slopes. Do not make sudden changes in speed or direction that might cause the machine to roll over.
  • Use extra care when operating the machine with grass catchers or other attachments, as they can affect the stability of the machine.
  • Do not attempt to stabilize the machine by putting your foot on the ground.
  • Do not mow near dropoffs, ditches or embankments. The machine could suddenly roll over if a wheel goes over the edge or if the edge collapses.

The cardinal rule when mowing slopes: When in doubt, don’t.


This loss control information is advisory only. The authors assume no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

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