Rototillers are used to dig up and amend garden beds and sites for lawns. These machines have tines set on an axle that rotate through the soil, churning and loosening it. The operator stands behind, holding the machine firmly. Rototillers are a heavy piece of machinery, prone to jumping and lunging during operation. Operators should know their machines well and operate them only under conditions of good visibility and light.
Rototillers quickly dig up soil in garden beds and lawns, but they also can cause serious injury. According to the University of California's website and data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 2,000 people were treated in 2006 for rototiller-caused accidents. Injuries ranged from lacerations on the lower legs, hands and wrists to back strain and burns.
Before operating a rototiller, owners should read its manual and become thoroughly familiar with the machine. A visual inspection should ensure that all belts and safety guards are in place and the machine is in good working order. The University of California recommends that a rototiller operator wear safety goggles, ear protection, heavy shoes and long pants.
Underground utility lines can cause severe injury if struck by a rototiller. Rocks and debris hidden in soil can kick up, and carbon monoxide fumes from the machine also can cause injury. Unsupervised children may stand on or get in the way of the machinery, resulting in an accident.
Rototiller operators should mark the location of all underground utility lines, advises the University of California, and always operate the equipment outdoors to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Children should be kept well away from a running rototiller and never be allowed to stand or play with it.
Operators should always shut off the rototiller engine and disconnect spark plugs before conducting maintenance. Additionally, they should add fuel to the engine before operating it and use a rag to wipe up fuel.