Like many homeowners, you may use a lawn mower to help maintain your property. Lawn mowers are helpful tools, but they can also be very dangerous. Each year, many thousands of people suffer deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, crushed and broken bones, burns, and other injuries due to improper or careless use of lawn mowers.
Lawn mowers are very powerful tools, and lawn mower injuries account for a large percentage of accidental partial or complete amputations. 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. In addition, a lawn mower can eject a piece of metal or wood up to 100 miles per hour.
In 2010, 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Children under age 19 account for nearly 17,000 of these injuries. The number of lawn mower-related injuries increased 3 percent since 2009.
Most lawn mower injuries can be prevented if you concentrate on your task and use common sense. Here are some basic tips for staying safe.
- 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.
- Be sure the motor is off before inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment.
- Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawnmowers.
- Read the instruction manual before using a lawnmower.
- Do not remove safety devices, shields, or guards on switches.
- Add fuel before starting the engine, not when it is running or hot.
- Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine.
- Stay away from the engine cowling, as it can become very hot and burn unprotected flesh.
- Wear protective gloves, goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants when you use lawn mowers. Never mow barefoot, or in sandals or flip flops.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages before operating a lawn mower.
- Hands and feet should never be used to touch the lawn mower blade under any circumstances, even if the engine is off. If there is debris obstructing the blade, once you clear it, the blade can quickly swing around and cause serious injury.
- Teach children to stay away from all running lawn mowers.
- Children should not be allowed to play in or near where a lawn mower is being used.
- Never allow a child or another passenger to ride on a mower, even with parents. Doctors commonly see children with severe injuries to their feet caused by riding on the back of a rider mower with a parent or grandparent.
- Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a riding lawn mower.
- Remove stones, toys and other objects from the lawn before you start mowing.
- Use caution when mowing hills and slopes. Mow across slopes with a push mower to avoid pulling the mower over your feet if you happen to slip. Mow up and down slopes with a riding mower to prevent the mower from tipping over. Do not cut wet grass.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
9400 West Higgins Road
Rosemont, IL 60018