At-Home Safety: Cutting Grass While Cutting Injuries

July 21, 2009
Mowing the lawn might be a routine summertime chore, but it’s an activity that injures 200,000 people – 16,000 of them children – every year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of these injuries, which include severed fingers and toes, limb amputations, broken bones, burns and eye injuries, can be prevented by following a few simple safety tips.

The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) have teamed up to prevent injuries and educate adults and children about the importance of lawn mower safety this summer.

"In 19 years of practice as a plastic surgeon and microsurgeon, some of the most devastating and disabling injuries I've treated are from lawn mower accidents,” said ASRM President William Zamboni, M.D. “It's especially concerning when children are injured since most of these injuries are preventable.”

Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties – plastic surgery, microsurgery, maxillofacial surgery, pediatrics and orthopaedics – to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months, sometimes years, to restore form and function.

“Maxillofacial plastic surgeons treat numerous facial injuries caused by lawn mowers, particularly to children, and the effects can be devastating,” said ASMS President Kevin Kelly, M.D. “Very often, we see patients who suffer significant facial injuries by items thrown out of mowers like sticks and stones.”

These organizations offer the following tips to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:

  • Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
  • Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
  • Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing, not sandals.
  • Young children should be at a safe distance from the area you are mowing.
  • Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection.
  • Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
  • Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and then carefully look for others behind you when you do.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
  • Blade settings should be set by an adult only.
  • Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads. (As a safety feature, some newer models have a blade/brake clutch that stops the blade each time the operator releases the handle.)

“Power lawn mowers are dangerous adult tools, but many children, and sometimes adults unfortunately, see them as toys,” said ASPS President John Canady, M.D. “Lawn mowing can be dangerous to the operator as well as those nearby if proper safety precautions aren’t taken. Physicians in this coalition often repair these heart wrenching injuries, and we feel it’s our duty to help people avoid these accidents in the first place.”

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