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Things to Know Before You Mow

Friday, May 12, 2006

It’s spring, finally. The rain and heat are turning your patch of yard into an Amazon of grass and dandelions, and it’s high time you mowed.


But, while mowing the lawn may seem like a perfectly benign way to spend a weekend afternoon, beware: each year, nearly 80,000 Americans require hospital treatment from lawn mower-related accidents, according to a study published in April by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Many of those injured are children under age 15, and the most common injuries were from debris shot off mowers’ whirling blades.

“In our emergency department this year, we’ve already seen a serious amputation. We’ve also seen burns and finger injuries in adults trying to repair push mowers while they’re running, and mowers kicking back on their operators when they strike rock or some other non-grass surface,” said Anne Brayer M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. “And even though riding mowers typically bear the brunt of the blame for dangerous injuries, push mowers pose serious threat, too.”


Brayer serves the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Rochester’s program site, and is eager to get the word out about lawn mower safety and reduce the amount of mower related injuries she and her team see every summer. She’s a true believer in Injury Free Coalition for Kids’ rule of thumb: keep yard tools and lawn mowers out of reach of kids.

But, if your kids are of mowing age, Brayer encourages you to make sure that they know how to operate the machine safely. Discuss these safety tips, courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics TIPP (The Injury Prevention Program):


  • Children younger than 12 years old should not use walk-behind mowers.
  • Keep children indoors or at a safe distance from the area you plan to mow.
  • Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward when the handle is let go.
  • Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where grass is released, and wear goggles to prevent injuries from projectiles.
  • Wear sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) while mowing.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. They should only be refueled while the machines are turned off and cool.
  • Make sure blade settings (setting wheel height, dislodging debris) are done by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug disconnected. 
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always make sure to wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge shoot, or crossing gravel paths, roads, and other areas.

The Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Rochester is a child injury prevention program centered at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program’s main goal is to reduce the incidence and severity of childhood injury in the greater Rochester metropolitan area.

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