Akron, Ohio – With summer in full swing, many children and teens are enjoying the warm weather, and even helping with outdoor chores. But while the task of lawn mowing may seem routine, it can be extremely dangerous, especially when small children are nearby.
“Lawnmowers are machines designed for cutting. They do not differentiate between grass, arms or legs,” said Kenneth Bono, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital. “They are not toys to ride on, and must be respected for the machines they are.”
Each year, thousands of children are treated in U.S. emergency departments for lawn mower injuries. These injuries are often related to children falling off of riding lawn mowers and getting hurt after running up to an adult who is mowing but does not see the approaching child.
“Lawnmower injuries are some of the most devastating and potentially life-altering injuries that we take care of, and almost all of them are avoidable,” Dr. Bono said.
Lawn mower injuries can involve broken and dislocated bones, deep cuts, missing fingers and toes, limb amputations, burns and eye injuries. Some require reconstructive surgery and months, if not years, to restore form and function.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, following a few quick and simple lawn mower safety tips will assure a safe summer for everyone.
- Only use a mower with a control that allows you to stop the blade if the handle is let go.
- Do not allow children to ride as passengers and keep them out of the yard when mowing.
- Be aware of other people around you, especially children, while mowing.
- Always turn the mower off and wait for blades to stop completely before performing any maintenance, unclogging the mower, or crossing gravel paths or roads.
- Use a stick or broom handle, not your hands or feet, to unclog a lawn mower.
- Wear sturdy shoes (not sandals) when operating the mower.
- Children should be at least 12 years old before operating a push lawn mower, and 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
- Pick up possible flying objects, such as stones or toys, prior to mowing to prevent injury.
- Do not pull the mower backwards or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and look carefully for children behind you.
- Drive up and down slopes, not across, to prevent mower rollover.
- Wear polycarbonate protective eyewear while mowing.
Akron Children’s has treated 23 children for lawn mower related injuries between 2009 and 2014, and 69 percent of these patients were 6 years old or younger.