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Lawn Mower Safety

Take extra measures to safeguard children

By John Hyman

John Harman knows first-hand the hazards of lawn-mowing equipment.

He was just 4 years old, having fun at his sister’s ninth birthday party in Moorefield, W.Va., when an older cousin suggested that the two of them jump on the back of a lawn mower being driven by their uncle.

The uncle, unaware of the children’s presence on the back of the mower, shifted into reverse, throwing young Harman off the back of the machine. The deck of the lawn mower dropped directly onto his foot, amputating it.

Many riding mowers now disengage the blades when the tractor goes into reverse, but many people disengage this feature so they can continue to mow in reverse. Harman, of course, strongly advises against this.

Nearly 50 years later, Harman uses his story to educate others about the importance of lawn mower safety.

His efforts are important; each year, U.S. lawn mower accidents cause injuries to nearly 17,000 children and teenagers, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some of those result in death.

The most common injuries are lacerations, fractures, and amputations of fingers, hands, toes, feet, and legs, according to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Injuries usually occur when the lawn mower operator is unaware of a child in the area and the child slips, falling under the equipment.

A lawn is not a safe place when lawn equipment is in operation and it’s important to know and remember the hazards to protect yourself and others. These tips can help:

  • Read the owner’s manual prior to using any lawn mower.
  • Familiarize yourself with the safe operation requirements, the instructions on safety decals, and the placement and proper movement of operating controls.
  • Use only manufacturer-approved attachments.
  • Inspect every lawn mower before use.
  • Before mowing, make sure that the lawn is free of rocks, toys, and other objects.
  • Do not operate any lawn mower in wet or slippery conditions.
  • Never remove or immobilize any safety guards.
  • Do not allow children to play around a lawn mower when it is in use — or in storage.
  • Do not allow passengers to ride on lawn mowers while in operation, or when being towed behind a vehicle in a cart or trailer.
  • Children should be at least 12 years of age before they are allowed to operate a walk-behind powered lawn or hand mower, and 16 to operate a riding lawn mower.
  • Child operators must be able to demonstrate the necessary levels of adequate judgment, strength, coordination, safety, and maturity before using lawn equipment, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Take precautions to prevent hair, loose clothing, or jewelry from becoming entangled in a lawn mower’s moving parts.
  • Proper personal protective equipment should be worn by every lawn mower operator. That includes safety glasses for eyes, ear plugs or muffs for ears, and sturdy work boots for feet.