Many people take great pride in a well maintained lawn and it can be a source of great joy and physical activity however, the power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home and safety precautions need to be observed to make lawn maintenance a safe activity. Each year, approximately 68,000 persons with injuries caused by power mowers were treated in emergency departments. These injuries affect adults, teens, and young children. More than 9,000 of the people hurt nationwide were younger than 18 years. In Mecklenburg County, an increase of 135 percent has been seen in local emergency departments of lawn mower injury visits from 2003 to 2005 with injuries of this type being seen locally primarily from April- October.
Lawn mower injuries include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones, burns, and eye and other injuries. Some injuries are very serious. Both users of mowers and those who are nearby can be hurt. The power of the lawnmower is underestimated as the standard blade is comparable to the energy generated by dropping a 21-pound weight from a height of 100 feet or equal to three times the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum pistol. Blade speed can eject a piece of wire or object up to 100 miles per hour.
The most common injury profile nationwide:
- Adults 25-64 years
- Children under age five
- 22 percent involve wrist, hand or fingers
- 14 percent involve foot, ankle or toes
- 25 percent of all hand and foot injuries result in amputation
- 70 percent of injuries that require hospitalization occur in children under age five.
- Males are injured twice as many times as female
- One third of all parents say they allow children under six in the yard while they mow the lawn, and 46 percent of suburban and rural parents allow this practice.
- Injuries usually occur from falling or tripping under mower blade, falling off riding mower, walking backwards with a mower, and being struck by an object propelled by the mower.
- Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
- Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers. Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
- Make sure that sturdy closed toed 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. Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
- Make sure that children under age six are indoors when you are mowing.
- Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
- Make sure that blade settings (to set the wheel height or dislodge debris) are done by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug removed or disconnected.
- 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, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
- Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.
- When using a walk- behind mower, mow across the face of slopes, not up and down, to avoid slipping under the mower and into the blades.
- With a riding mower, mow up and down slopes, not across to avoid tipping over.
** Information compiled for Levine Children's Hospital by Carolinas Center for Injury Prevention