As the school year draws to a close, thousands of children across the country will take on a familiar chore: mowing the lawn. Three national medical organizations are warning families that the routine task of lawn mowing can be extremely dangerous to children, the operator, and those nearby if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.
Of the 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010, nearly 17,000 were children under age 19, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Lawn mower-related injuries are up 3% since 2009.
Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months, sometimes years, to restore form and function. Some of these procedures can be as complex as moving the big toe to the hand to simulate a thumb.
“Lawn mowers are not meant to be toys and are certainly not to be used for joy rides,” said American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery President Michael Neumeister, M.D. “Most lawn mower injuries occur when the operator is distracted momentarily and injuries can range from fingertips to entire hands and feet.”
These tips can help you prevent lawn mower injures:
- Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
- Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
- Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
- Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower or is in the vicinity to wear polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.
- Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
- Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
- Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawn mowers.
- Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers and keep children out of the yard while mowing.
- Drive up and down slopes, not across to prevent mower rollover.
- Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.
Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons