By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 10,000 children are treated each year for injuries related to lawn mowers. Many of these injuries occur in older children and teens. However, small children are at risk of injury also.
Lawn mowers have the potential to cause serious injuries. The blades are sharp enough to slice and even amputate, and objects that get caught in the blades fly out with great force. Though doing yard work together may be a fun family activity, children should not be around when you are mowing.
Some tips to prevent lawn mower-related injuries include:
- Read the owner's manual of the mower before operating it.
- Remember, a riding lawn mower is not a toy or a vehicle. Children should never play on or ride on a lawn mower, even while sitting on a parent's lap.
- Make sure your child stays a safe distance away from the mower while you are using it.
- Power mowers should come equipped with a control that stops the mower if the handle is released.
- Make sure that all shields are in place on your mower.
- Children under age 14 should not be allowed on riding mowers, and children under 12 should not use motorized push mowers. Adults and children who are old enough to mow should wear sturdy, non-slip shoes (no sandals or bare feet), pants and protective eyewear while mowing.
- Debris, such as toys and rocks, should be removed from the yard before mowing. These items can cause serious injuries when they fly from under the mower blades.
- Turn off your mower and wait for the blades to stop spinning before crossing gravel paths or roads, and before removing the grass catcher.
- Operate your mower only in good weather, and make sure the grass is dry.
- Don't mow if there is not enough daylight to see clearly.
- Never pull a mower backwards or mow in reverse.
- Mowers should be started and refueled outside, not in a garage or shed. The motor should be turned off and cooled to refuel.
- Blades should be cleaned or adjusted by an adult and the mower should be turned off with the spark plug removed or disconnected. Move the mower from the spot where you refueled to avoid igniting gasoline vapors that may linger in the air.
- Never leave a running mower unattended. If the mower has an electric start, do not leave the key in the switch.
- Keep a firm, two-handed grip on the handle of the mower at all times.
- Store your mower in a safe place, where your child cannot get to it, such as in a locked shed. If you cannot lock it up, teach your child that it is not a toy and not to be played on or around.
- Teach your child that mower blades are dangerous and can cause serious injury.
- Be aware of where your children are while you are mowing and do not allow them nearby.
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children's special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB. This column is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.
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