I'm hoping someone here can answer a legal question for me, as I can't
find the answer online. A friend told me recently that if you have a
lawnmower, and pay someone to use it, it must be fitted with an operator
presence control. That is, one of those levers you have to hold onto,
and if you let go of it the engine stops. Personally I find them an
annoyance. Does anyone know if this is true?
On Sat, 02 Aug 2008 08:33:35 +0000, Christopher Tidy
Is it a 'must' or a 'should'? I thought it was only applicable if you
wanted to conform to the standard - I'm not sure it's a requirement?
I'm inclined to think it's more about which bored bureaucrat could be
bothered to do any 'work' on any given day.
The better ones have a bar that sits above the handle - at least you
then have the weight of your hands in play.
Where I see models fitted with a dead man's handle at the local tip,
there's nearly always a plant tie attached to the handle - so I think
it's a fairly common annoyance.
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
Whether it is obligatory to have such a cut-out I don't know. What is fairly
certain is that should you employ somebody to use that mower with the
cut-out deliberately disabled, then you would be guilty of wilful neglect of
that person's safety and therefore liable to pay compensation in the event
Like most people I regard it as a damn nuisance and tie it up with a plant
tie. The one on my hedge trimmer is even worse because it incorporates a
brake with a powerful spring, making it ridiulously heavy to hold up, and
tiring on the fingers to clench both triggers.
While I have yet to contact the local H. & S. office (I do intend to), I
came across something interesting today. I was looking at a brochure for
the latest Dennis lawnmowers. None of their most expensive machines have
an operator presence control, but the cheaper ones do.
Presumably this means that it is not a legal requirement. It also
suggests that professional groundsmen know that the feature is annoying!
I'm guessing the more expensive ones require you to pull a lever to engage
the blade though...
It's not a requirement for the operator presence control to stop the engine.
It just has to stop any cutting blades. You can buy Honda mowers that work
by disengaging drive to the blade, but they are more expensive, as they
obviously require a good few more components.
Thanks for suggesting that I contact the HSE. I have now had a response
from them, and I thought I would share it here for the benefit of others.
There is no specific legal requirement in the UK that a lawnmower be
fitted with an operator presence control. However they also referred me
to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The gist of
these regulations is that the employer must select equipment with care
in order to reduce or eliminate risks to the health and safety of their
Based on these regulations, a good lawyer could probably construct an
argument either for or against an operator presence control. It could be
argued that it has few negative effects, and therefore is a worthwhile
added safety feature. But it could alternatively be argued (in my view
more convincingly) that the feature is a nuisance, increases operator
fatigue, provides a false sense of security, is very rarely used to stop
the engine for safety reasons, and is a feature commonly omitted from
larger, more dangerous machines.
In the end I am left with the gut feeling that it is much more important
for the employer to choose his operator carefully than to ensure his
machine is fitted with an operator presence control. While the following
quote is a bit frivolous, I believe it's appropriate here:
"You can't idiot proof anything; every time you try, they just make
I forget who the quote comes from.
Thanks for the advice.
I'm still waiting for MY lawnmower to come back after the gearbox associated
with the 'operator presence control' failed after 2 months ( 5 or 6 uses ).
It's taken 10 weeks so far and no sign of it coming back soon so I've asked
the Credit Card company to refund us.
I think I've said before about 90% of equipment failures being due to the
built in test equipment that is supposed to make things more reliable. Strip
all the crap, keep it simple and you will be much better of :)
And if anybody is thinking about a new lawnmower - don't bother with Mowerland :(
Just out of interest, what is the make and model of your mower?
Some pieces of electronics have made machines more reliable during their
intended lifetimes. Modern car engines start more reliably in cold
weather than most old engines, for example. But all added complexity,
especially electronics, compromises the long term maintainability of a
In 50 years time, are people going to be collecting the lawnmowers and
engines made today? I think few people will be interested, because they
aren't the exemplary pieces of workmanship that they used to be.
In this case I think the continual stopping and starting of the motor has
stressed the 90deg gearbox that takes power from the engine to drive the rear
wheel. It had just seized solid, and one would have to dismantle the 'operator
presence control' to get the belt off to make it a simple push along.
On the aspect of 'ealth and safety' - I think I will probably do more damage
to my back having to restart the engine every time a empty the basket. Which
can be 30 or 40 times each session :(
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