Mowing the lawn is such a routine part of the summer lifestyle that we often don’t think about the potential dangers involved. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2010 and 2012 an average of 38,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for walk-behind power mower injuries, and 34,000 related to riding mowers.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shares some surprising information about lawn mowers on their website, including these facts:
- The energy transferred by a typical lawn mower blade is equivalent to being shot in the hand with a .357 Magnum pistol.
- The speed of the blade can send dirt and bacteria deep into a wound, creating a high risk for severe infection.
- A lawn mower can eject a piece of metal or wood up to 100 mph.
With proper precautions, the risk of injury can be drastically reduced. Here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe around lawn mowers.
- Protect your eyes. Wear polycarbonate goggles to prevent projectiles or even dust and grass from getting into your eyes.
- Wear ear protection. A power lawn mower produces about 90 decibels of sound; exposure to noise over 85 decibles may cause hearing loss. See this link for more information on noise and hearing loss prevention.
- Dress for the occasion. Lightweight, long-sleeve shirts and pants will keep your arms and legs from getting scratched. Gloves should be worn to protect your hands. Shoes should be sturdy; avoid flip flops and sandals.
- Ensure your mower is in good working order before using it each year.
- Use a lawn mower with an emergency stop, or one that turns off when the handle is released.
- Make sure the engine is off and has cooled before you refuel; this should be done outdoors, not in a garage or shed due to fumes.
- Only mow with enough daylight present. Avoid wet grass and thunderstorms.
- Drive up and down slopes (not across) to avoid tip–overs.
- When troubleshooting, always turn off the lawn mower and wait for the blades to stop first. After the blades have stopped, use a stick (never hands and feet) to remove any debris.
- Do not let children ride as passengers on lawn mowers, and keep children out of the yard when mowing.
You may wonder when your children will be ready to help with the lawn care. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
“Before learning how to mow the lawn, your child should show the maturity, good judgment, strength and coordination that the job requires. In general, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be at least 12 years of age to operate a walk-behind power mower or hand mower safely and 16 years of age to operate a riding lawn mower safely.
It is important to teach your child how to use a lawn mower. Before you allow your child to mow the lawn alone, spend time showing him or her how to do the job safely. Supervise your child’s work until you are sure that he or she can manage the task alone.”
Lawn care can still be a family affair! Review the safety rules with your kids each year, and discuss the reasoning behind each one. Have them help you to prepare for the task by picking up lawn toys, and stray rocks and sticks prior to a parent mowing. They may also be able to help sweep grass clippings once mowing is complete.
– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System