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Operate lawnmowers with an ounce of prevention

May 18, 2015

The snow blowers have been retired for the winter. Now that spring has arrived and the grass is growing, lawnmowers – and the potential for injury – are coming out of hibernation.

Deadly accidents

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, from 2012-2014, an average of 36,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for walk-behind mower injuries.

“When operated with an ounce of prevention, lawnmowers, whether walk-behind or riding, can be operated quite safely,” said Dr. Pranay Parikh of Baystate Hand and Wrist Surgery.

“When special care isn’t taken, however, to protect yourself and others from injury, the results can be devastating and sometimes even deadly,” he added.

Common lawn mower-related injuries include broken and dislocated bones, deep cuts, missing fingers and toes, limp amputations, burns and eye injuries.

Safety for children

But, it’s not only adults who are injured. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), some 17,000 children require emergency room care each year because of lawnmower accidents.

“Children must be taught that a lawnmower isn’t a toy, and parents need to keep young children indoors or at a safe, far-away distance from the area being mowed,” said Dr. Kevin Moriarty, chief, Pediatric Surgery, Baystate Children’s Hospital. “Also, by no means should an adult place a child on their lap while operating a lawn tractor.”

The AAP suggests that children be at least 12 year of age to operate a walk-behind power more or hand mower, and 16 years of age to operate a riding mower, but not before being taught how to operate the mower properly and safely.

Quick Tips

Most injuries can be avoided by using common sense and practicing safe mowing.

To stay safe while mowing, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and Drs. Parikh and Moriarty recommend:

  • Do not operate the lawnmower while barefoot; wear sturdy boots or steel-toed shoes.
  • Wear protective goggles, gloves and long pants, as well as hearing protection.
  • Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
  • Use a mower equipped with a control that prevents it from moving forward if the handle is released.
  • Don’t ever pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – carefully look for others behind you if you do for some reason.
  • Never insert hands or feet into the mower to remove grass or debris. Even with the motor turned off, the blade remains engaged.
  • Always use a stick or broom handle to remove any obstruction.
  • Read your mower’s instruction manual prior to use.
  • Do not remove safety devices or guards on switches.
  • Never cut grass when it is wet or when the ground is damp.
  • Be cautious when mowing hills or slopes.
  • Never allow passengers, whether children or other adults, on riding mowers.