Lawn Mower and Safety go hand in hand

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In just a few weeks the school year will come to a close and thousands of children across the country will take on a familiar chore: mowing the lawn. Safety is always a priority, and three national medical organizations are warning families that the routine task of lawn mowing can be extremely dangerous to children, the operator, and those nearby if proper safety precautions aren't taken.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2012 more than 234,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in a clinic or emergency department, or were admitted to the hospital. More than 17,900 of them are children under age 18, and approximately one-third of lawn mower-related injuries are serious enough to be treated in an emergency department.    

"Lawn mowers are not meant to be toys and are certainly not to be used for joy rides," said American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM) President Joseph M. Serletti, MD, FACS. "Most lawn mower injuries occur when the operator is distracted momentarily and injuries can range from finger tips to entire hands and feet." 

With the summer mowing season approaching, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are joining ASRM in educating adults and children about the importance of lawn mower safety.  

"Every year at this time, children can be seen operating or playing around lawn mowers in unsafe ways. In thousands of yards, injuries will occur, and a beautiful summer day will become a painful occasion," said AAP President Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP. "We want parents and kids to be more aware of precautions to take so that injuries can be prevented."

"Too many people are injured each year because of lawn mower-related incidents," said AAOS President Joshua J. Jacobs, MD. "Many of us underestimate the damage that these powerful machines can cause, but it is imperative that we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our families from getting hurt by keeping up to speed on all safety precautions."

Lawn mower injury prevention tips include:

>>Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.

>>Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.

>>Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.

>>Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower or is in the vicinity to wear polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.  

>>Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.

>>Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.

>>Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawn mowers.

>>Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers and keep children out of the yard while mowing.

>>Drive up and down slopes, not across to prevent mower rollover.

>>Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.

Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties to properly repair them.  Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months, sometimes years, to restore form and function. Some of these procedures can be as complex as moving the big toe to the hand to simulate a thumb.

To read more tips on lawn mower safety, visit OrthoInfo.org.