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Safe Operation of a String Trimmer

​This Tailgate Talk is part of the NLTAPA collection.

AKA WEED WACKER. Gas powered string trimmers are commonly used to trim areas of grass or light vegetation or to trim around buildings, trees, and areas that can't be mowed with a regular mower. Brush cutters are used to cut down vegetation with heavier stalks.

Safety Protection for Operators

  • Clothing protects the operator from thrown objects and sun exposure. Dress properly for the job, wearing long pants, and close-fitting clothes. Chain saw chaps to protect the legs may be necessary with a brush cutter.

  • Tie back long hair and don't wear anything that could become entangled in the moving parts of the trimmer.

  • Always wear sturdy, non-slip soled shoes or boots.

  • Safety glasses and/or goggles protect the eyes from dust, dirt, trash, and small rocks thrown by the blade. Face screens in combination with safety glasses and/or goggles provide better protection.

  • Earplugs or muffs protect hearing from engine and blade noises.

  • Select equipment with anti-vibration components or wear gloves for protection.

  • Don't operate equipment under the influence of medication because it can impair one's ability to safely use the equipment.

  • Operate the trimmer while standing upright, not bent over. Adjust the harness and hand grip to suit a comfortable work position.

  • Protect hands by wearing gloves when handling the blades and other items which might be sharp, contain nicks, or have metal burrs on the edges.

  • Shut off the engine and disconnect the spark plug wire when making repairs or adjustments.

Before Operating

  • Read the operator's manual to find out where controls are located and how they function, as every trimmer is different. Check for additional safety instructions in the operator's manual and know how to stop the machine quickly. Never allow untrained individuals to operate trimmers.

  • Before trimming, walk the area and pick up objects lying on the grass. Tools, cans, bottles, wire, rocks, sticks, twigs, and limbs can be hazardous to bystanders and the operator.

  • Check the supply of string or see if the blades are sharp depending on the unit you're using. Replace bent, warped, damaged, or dull cutters.

  • Check the fuel level.

  • Make sure the muffler is in good condition. In dry weather, use a fire-safe muffler. 

  • Ensure that shields and other guards are in place and working properly. Don't remove or disable guards or other safety devices.

Fueling Safety

  • Use proper fuel (two cycle gas/oil mixture). 

  • Don't overfill the tank; leave room for expansion.

  • Don't add any fuel if the engine is still hot; let it cool down before re-fueling. 

  • Never light a match or smoke around gasoline.

Keep People At A Safe Distance

  •  WARNING - string trimmers and brush cutters can throw objects violently, up to 30 feet. Keep people AT LEAST 30 feet (60 foot radius) away to avoid possible injury. Stop immediately if approached.

Operation of String Trimmers & Brush Cutters

  • Start the unit on firm ground or other solid surface in an open area. 

  • Hold the unit with both hands. Keep a firm footing.

  • Keep the trimmer head below waist level.

  • Always stand on the proper side of the trimmer while cutting. On a curved shaft unit, the line head rotation is clockwise (cut on the left side). On a straight shaft unit, the line head rotation is counterclockwise (cut on the right side).

  • Bring the engine to operating speed before starting to cut vegetation.

  • Don't operate the engine faster than needed to effectively cut the vegetation. 

  • Allow the engine to return to idle speed when not cutting.

  • Always turn off the engine and disconnect the spark plug wire, if accessible, before attempting to unclog or adjust a trimmer. To avoid placing hands near the blade, use a stick to remove the clog.

Shut Down Of Machine

  • Idle down the engine a few minutes to allow the engine to cool down. 

  • Stop the engine before putting the cutter down.

  • Always clean the trimmer after use. Don't spray cold water on a hot engine. 

  • Secure the cutter to prevent fuel spillage and damage during transport.

  • Keep the cutter tool covered with the carrying guard.

Keep Trimmers In Peak Operating Condition

  • Inspect the trimmer periodically for potential hazards such as loose belts and missing or damaged guards. Examine the trimmer for accumulations of grass, leaves, or excessive grease to reduce fire hazards.

  • Conduct routine maintenance and inspections.

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