8 Lawn Safety Tips to Know Before You Mow
National medical societies offer tips to help prevent needless life-threatening injuries
Mowing the lawn is a routine household chore during the spring and summer months to maintain a healthy, well-kept yard. It's also an outdoor activity that can lead to serious injuries, especially when a lawn mower is mishandled.
In 2016, more than 86,000 adults and 4,500 children in the U.S. were treated in emergency departments for lawn mower-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Commission also reports that 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors each year, and more than 600 of those incidents result in amputation.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) have teamed up to help prevent injuries and educate parents and children about the importance of lawn mower safety.
These preventable accidents often occur in the family's own yard. Since children are often assigned yard chores around the home, families must take preventative safety measures before adding this task to their kids' to-do list.
"We want to educate people so they can better protect themselves and their families while performing outdoor chores," said ASPS president Jeffrey Janis, MD. "Lawn mowing can unexpectedly become a dangerous activity, especially when children are near. It's imperative that operators take proper precautions and eliminate all risks to reduce these traumatic injuries."
"While highly sophisticated microsurgical reconstruction can often repair severely injured and amputated parts, prevention is the best medicine," said ASRM President Joseph Disa, MD.
The medical societies recommend the following eight yard-safety tips:
- Keep your children indoors and do not allow other children to play nearby while you are mowing.
- Never allow children to play on a lawn mower, even if it is turned off.
- Never allow a child to ride on a riding lawn mower with you.
- Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old for a riding mower.
- Always wear eye and hearing protection and sturdy shoes while mowing – not sandals.
- Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless necessary (carefully look for others behind you when you do).
- Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
- Blade settings should be adjusted by an adult only – and with the lawn mower turned off.
"We are pleased to be part of this lawn mower injury prevention coalition," said ASMS President Donald Mackay, MD. "Maxillofacial plastic surgeons treat numerous facial injuries caused by lawn mowers, particularly to children, and the effects can be devastating. Very often, we see patients who suffer significant facial injuries by items thrown out of mowers like sticks and stones."
"Lawn mowers are a leading cause of amputations for children, which can be a tragic devastation to a child and family," said Rick Schwend, MD, FAAP, president of POSNA. "The blades can deliver more destructive energy to a young child than a .357 magnum pistol."
Common lawn mower pediatric injuries include severe burns, cuts, broken bones, limb loss, eye injuries, amputated toes and severed fingers and often require hospitalization. A multidisciplinary team – plastic surgeons, maxillofacial surgeons, pediatric surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons – are often needed to repair these injuries and restore function. Patients often undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries over an extended period, sometimes months or years.
"Every year, far too many children are injured severely by lawn mowers, and these injuries are completely preventable," said AAP President Colleen A. Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP. "Before learning how to mow the lawn, your teen should show the maturity, good judgment, strength and coordination that the job requires."
"It's important for parents to have a conversation with kids of all ages about lawn mower safety," said orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS president David A. Halsey, MD. "Operating a lawn mower can be dangerous, but with appropriate care can be done safely."
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 7,000 physician members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 93 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.