National Safety Council, Toro and Exmark Launch Zero Radius Turn Mower Safety Training Program

The National Safety Council (NSC), in partnership with two mower manufacturers, has introduced a new training program to instruct commercial lawn care equipment operators on the safe operation of zero radius turn (ZRT) mowers.

Funded by The Toro Company and Exmark, the Commercial Equipment Operators’ (CEO) Safety Training Program is designed to protect landscaping workers and prevent accidents by promoting safe ZRT mowing techniques. “Proper instruction—through the use of effective operator training—is key to the successful operation of zero turn equipment,” explains Sam Steel, director of projects and grants for NSC. “It can help commercial lawn care firms reduce accidents, personal injury claims, operating costs, and property damage.”

Designed for field or classroom use, the training package includes laminated “tailgate” training flip charts with a trainer’s script on the back of every page, an instructional DVD to guide trainers, plus participant handouts to help reinforce the lessons learned in each of the three modules. The flipcharts include both English and Spanish text and are enclosed in a durable and weather-resistant carrying case that doubles as a presentation easel. Each page uses large photos and text to illustrate proper ZRT operation and explain the risks of operating the mowers improperly.

“Proper instruction is critical,” reveals Rick Rodier, general manager of the Landscape Contractor Business for Toro, which is headquartered in Bloomington, Minn. “Our world is full of tools that can be dangerous if they are mishandled. Because we can’t control who reads each operating manual that accompanies our equipment, we want to do as much as we can to protect users from the unexpected. That’s why we’ve united with the National Safety Council, Exmark and landscaping firms to broaden awareness of safety training.”

As with all commercial equipment, safety training is important to minimize the risk of accidents, Steel explains. However, he cautions that safety instruction can vary from site to site, and operators may not encounter consistent training throughout their employment. The CEO program will help ensure these and other topics are addressed in each training session: equipment safety features, safe mower operation on slopes, prevention of rollover accidents, protection from hazards, safety gear, use of attachments, and safe transportation of equipment. The program also provides supervisors or crew leaders with materials such as bilingual scripts and tips to ensure consistent, accurate and clear instruction.

“The CEO program makes it easy for employers and leaders of contract workers to thoroughly instruct every person who works with, or around, a ZRT,” comments Mark Stinson, general manager of Exmark Manufacturing in Beatrice, Neb. “As with any complex machine, zero turn riders can be dangerous if misused. Once users understand their limits and capabilities, they can protect themselves while preserving the efficiency and productivity the mowers afford.”

Field testing of the training program already has demonstrated initial success and acceptance, according to Steel, who adds, “Delivering the training in a language workers understand is a key element in reducing preventable injuries among ZRT operators.”

Distribution of the CEO program will occur through the NSC’s Web site, where the kit is available for order at “The cost is minimal when compared to injury and property damage claims,” explains Steel. “The expense is easily offset by the return on investment—namely, meeting training requirements and maintaining a healthier workforce that reports to work every day and returns home safe every night.”

Collaborating on the development of the CEO program is the latest effort by Toro and Exmark to increase zero turn rider safety awareness. In 2003, both manufacturers introduced a bilingual “Driving in the Safety Zone” instructional video campaign. In 2004, the two outdoor power equipment manufacturers further demonstrated their safety commitment by initiating a free ZRT mower roll-over protection system promotion for customers, and by championing the CEO program with NSC in an effort to reduce accidents.

“We are pleased these manufacturers have taken the lead in this initiative and hope it will raise awareness of this important issue,” concludes Steel. “As an organization dedicated to protecting life and promoting health, we are committed to working with Toro and Exmark to help improve safety conditions in the landscape industry.”

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