The smell of a fresh cut lawn is a seasonal hallmark that many Kansas City neighborhoods enjoy. Along with barbecues and trips to the local swimming pool, mowing the grass is a constant weekend activity for families all over. As children grow older, parents often look forward to the time when their offspring can take over the chore. At least for families with riding lawn mowers, many middle and high school aged kids look forward to the chance to tool around the yard on a riding lawn mower.
However, it is too common for kids and their parents to see the lawn mower as some kind of all-terrain vehicle, rather than a potentially dangerous piece of power equipment. Lawn mower injuries can occur when inexperienced and/or immature children are left in charge of dangerous equipment.
According to Dr. John Canady, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, "Lawn mowing can be dangerous to the operator as well as to those nearby if proper safety precautions aren't taken." Dr. Canady stresses the need for parents and children to view lawn equipment as dangerous, and not as toys.
Just how dangerous are lawn mowers? In 2006, over 77,000 people were treated in emergency rooms across the country for lawn mower related accidents. Even more sobering, 406 deaths were reported in 2005 from lawn mowing accidents. Johns Hopkins University Hospital reported that 95 percent of the lawn mower related injuries treated in the pediatric trauma center involved amputations of some sort. Most of these injuries required some sort of reattachment surgery or surgical reconstruction by a plastic surgeon.
There are many ways to help keep family members safe from the potential dangers lawn mowers can bring. The first and most essential step is to shift the mindset for every family member that lawn mowers are some sort of recreational toy. Here are a few other tips to consider:
- Children under 16 should not operate a riding lawn mower
- Children are not ready to run even a standard push mower until they are at least 12
- Protective eye and hearing protection is a must for the lawn mower operator
- Never allow children to ride along as a passenger on a riding lawn mower
- Comb the area to be mowed for debris before you begin cutting the grass. This cuts down on the possibilities of projectiles being thrown from the mower.
- Safe, sturdy shoes are a must
- Watch for younger children, never go into reverse on a riding mower unless you look for people behind you first
- Look for mowers with safety features such as an automatic shut off whenever the hand is released or the seat is vacated
- Adults only should handle changing or servicing the lawn mower blades
- Only add fuel or service the mower outdoors. Sheds and garages are not ventilated well enough to protect you from spontaneous combustion fires or becoming overwhelmed with fumes.
Practicing preventive steps can keep your family and others safe around lawn equipment. Potential injuries from lawn mowing accidents include severed toes, lacerations from projectiles, shoulder and back sprains, and tripping over lawn equipment.
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