Lawnmowers & Children
74,000 times each year an American is injured badly enough by a lawnmower to end up in the emergency room. More than 9,000 of those victims are children, and many of those accidents involve severe injuries to hands and feet.
There are several simple steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of serious lawnmower injuries to children; some of them common sense and others ideas you may not have considered. Here are some key safety tips:
1. Appreciate the mower as a dangerous tool, because it is. The energy of a mower blade is three times the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum pistol, one of the world's most powerful handguns. The blade can throw a piece of debris, like a stone or piece of wire, at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. The result - one fourth of all hand and foot injuries caused by mowers include amputations of fingers, toes, hands, or feet. The injuries are terrible.
2. Children should never ride a mower with an adult - each year a number of children suffer severe, and in some cases fatal, injuries after falling off a mower and then being run over.
3. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child be at least 12 years old before operating a power push mower, and be at least 16 to operate a riding mower. These age recommendations assume that the child is large enough to physically handle the equipment. Careful instructions and review of the operating manuals should be part of the routine of teaching a child or teenager how to use the mower. Ignorance is an accident waiting to happen.
4. Children should not be allowed on a yard being mowed. The operator cannot hear the children because of the mower noise, cannot watch the mowing path and the children both, and the debris thrown by a mower can easily cross a yard and strike a child. Five percent of lawnmower injuries to children occur when the mower backs over them because the operator does not see them. Make your practice to clear the yard before mowing - of debris and of children. This is all especially important if the mower operator is inexperienced, as might be the case if the operator is a teenager.
Dr. Erik Steele, DO