I’ve always said I’d never make an equipment technician because I’m too afraid of busting my knuckles or pinching fingers. I could not work on equipment without smashing a finger at least once a day. Are cutting units considered a hazard in your shop? A reel or rotary mowing deck is an inanimate object, it’s just 100 or so pounds of steel sitting there; and like a gun, it can’t hurt you unless you pick it up, right?
Be careful, if you do pick it up, your likely to hurt your back, even if you use proper lifting technique.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways a cutting unit can be a hazard and how to reduce the risk of sharpening, handling and mowing with reel and rotary cutting units.
They’re heavy, probably too heavy to safely pick up by yourself. If you’re trying to pick up a smaller, triplex reel, you can probably handle that if you use good lifting technique - straight back, head up, lift with your legs not your back, and don’t twist your back to turn, move your feet and whole body. For heavier units, use a lift table, hoist, or winch to get it off the ground and onto the grinder or workbench. Once you get it on the workbench, take a few seconds to tie it down with a bungee cord, or secure it with a block of wood. You don’t want it to roll off the table, or smash your fingers between it and another unit. I know it’s hard to perform detailed work with gloves on but wearing a pair while you’re getting the reel set up might save a bruised or cut hand. What’s heavy going up is heavy coming down. Steel toe work shoes are not required at most golf courses, but if you’re picking up and moving heavy cutting units, they might be a good idea. Likewise, when an operator brings a mower into the shop, keep a safe distance away. If he drops the cutting units and you’re standing too close it could come down on your foot and do serious damage.
They’re sharp, and are a serious hazard to amputate fingers and toes when moving fast. Never put your hands or feet in a reel or rotary deck unless you are 100 percent sure the mower is off and any stored hydraulic energy has been released. If there is something stuck in a reel, use a wooden stick or tool to remove it. A reel doesn’t have to be on a mower to cut you; groomer blades can get as sharp as a knife blade. Preston Burl, equipment technician at MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary, N.C., warns, “If you drop a bedknife, your first reaction is to try to catch it, but don’t. Just step back and let it fall. If you grab it, you’ll cut your hand like grabbing a swinging machete.”
Reel maintenance presents hazards, too. Noise and dust from grinders can damage your hearing and be a respiratory hazard. Many grinders are enclosed and have vacuum systems to reduce noise to an acceptable level, and collect dust before it’s spread through the air. If your grinders don’t have these engineered safety measures, you need to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – ear muffs or ear plugs and a dust mask.
If you back lap reels, whether with an old back lap machine or on the mower, use a long handled brush to spread the lapping compound. When a short handled brush gets worn down, there isn’t much room between the moving reel and your hand. If the brush is grabbed by the reel, it can pull your hand in with it. Another hazard of working with a spinning reel is debris (or lapping compound) getting thrown out and into your eyes; you should always wear eye protection and a full-face shield isn’t a bad idea.