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The Most Dangerous Summer Tool - Keep Your Family Safe

Summer Lawnmower Safety

What would you say was the most dangerous household tool you own? Would it surprise you to learn that it is the one you probably use nearly every weekend in the spring and summer? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the lawnmower is responsible for sending 68,000 to the emergency department each year. More than 9000 of them are children.

The most common injuries related to lawnmowers include lacerations, amputations, fractures, infections and skin defects.

It is key to remember that lawnmowers are very powerful tools. The energy transferred by a typical lawnmower blade is equivalent to being shot in the hand with a .257 Magnum pistol. The speed of the blade can send dirt and bacteria deep into a wound, creating a high risk for severe infection. Also, a lawnmower can eject a piece of metal or wood up to 100 miles per hour.

“One important statistic to remember is that a significant number of these accidents occur among family members,” says Junichi Tamai, MD, Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery. “Most families think that if the child stays with a family member, everything will be okay, but that is not always the case.”

Most lawnmower injuries can be prevented with just a little common sense:

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The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons give the following tips for staying safe around lawn mowers.

Choosing a Safe Lawn Mower
• Allows automatic blade disengagement when the mower is placed in reverse
• Has a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is released
• Has a blade safety device for ride-on mowers that disconnects the blade from the power source when the operator leaves the operating position

Maintain Your Lawnmower
• 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.

Operate Your Lawnmower Properly
• 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.
• Wear hard-soled, sturdy shoes around mowers (no sandals or sneakers). Wear protective gloves and goggles.
• Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins
• 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.
• 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
• Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine.
• 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.
• Stay away from the engine cowling, as it can become very hot and burn unprotected flesh. Allow the mower to cool before removing the grass catcher or unclogging the discharge chute.
• Obviously, do not operate a lawn mower while drinking alcohol.

Keep Kids Safe
• Teach all children to stay away from all running lawnmowers. Do not even allow them in the yard when a lawnmower is being used (to prevent being struck by a flying object)
• Children younger than 12 should not use walk-behind mowers
• Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers
• Children or adults should never be allowed as passengers on ride-on mowers

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons