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Lawn mower safety urged

Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Injuries from lawn mowers are among the most traumatic seen at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. They are devastating to patients and their families.

Children’s Hospital physicians have already treated two children seriously injured by lawn mower-related accidents this spring, and there were six in 2012. Purnima Unni, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Coordinator, said injuries include lacerations to lower extremities, and in some cases amputation of fingers, she said.

Steven Lovejoy, M.D., a Vanderbilt orthopedic surgeon, said there are three common types of lawn mower injuries: bystanders who fall, slide or trip into the path of a mower; older children who are operating the lawn mower and get their fingers or toes cut off from the blades, or those who have roll-over injuries; and passengers of any age who slip or fall from a riding mower into the path of the blades.

“Many people do not realize that a mower can throw an object up to 2,100 feet at 200 mph into a child who is playing in the yard and cause severe injuries or death,” Lovejoy said. “These are powerful vehicles that are dangerous to children and can cause devastating injuries.”

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital offers the following tips to help reduce the risk of a lawn mower injury:

  • Read the lawn mower operator’s manual.
  • Children should not ride on lawn mowers as passengers.  They can fall and be caught under the mower.
  • Clear the mowing area of objects including twigs, stones and toys that can be picked up and thrown by the lawn mower blades.
  • Wear close-toed shoes with slip-proof soles while mowing.
  • Consider hearing protection for louder mowers.
  • Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is let go.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you do.
  • Make sure that all children are indoors or at a safe distance away from the area that you are mowing before you turn on the mower. 
  • Make sure your child is old enough to handle the responsibilities that are associated with using a lawn mower. Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to operate riding mowers, and those younger than 12 should not be allowed to use walk-behind mowers.
  • Before you allow your child to mow the lawn alone, spend time showing him or her how to do the job safely. Supervise your child’s work until you are sure that he or she can manage the task alone.
  • Store the fuel for the mower out of reach of children. Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or a shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool. Never let children refuel the engine.