Lawn and Garden

Lawn Mower Safety

by John Hyman, MS, CSHM, WVU Safety and Health Extension Safety Specialist and Associate Professor

lawnmower-4 The arrival of spring and summer encourages us to spend more time outdoors. After a long winter, many of us are anxious to get outside and complete lawn and maintenance work. It is pertinent to use caution, as well as proper technique, when completing outdoor tasks.

Each year in the United States, lawn mower accidents cause many serious injuries, including injury to 9,400 children—some of which result in death. According to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the most common injuries experienced are lacerations, fractures and amputations of fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs. Injuries usually occur when the lawn mower operator is unaware of a child in the area and the child slips, falling under the equipment.

Personal stories of warning

John Harman, a West Virginia native, knows first hand the hazards associated with lawn mowing and lawn mowing equipment.

When Harman was four years old, he endured an accident with a lawn mower that will affect him for the rest of his life.

lawnmower-2 During his older sister’s ninth birthday party in Moorefield, W.Va., Harman’s uncle was riding a recently purchased lawn mower around the yard. John’s older cousin suggested that the two of them go jump on the back of the lawn mower while it was in operation.


The uncle, unaware of the children’s presence on the back of the mower, shifted into reverse, throwing John off the back of the machine. The deck of the lawn mower dropped, directly onto John’s foot, resulting in its amputation.

Harman points out that many riding mowers now disengage the blades when the tractor goes into reverse, but many people disengage this feature so they can continue to mow in reverse. He, of course, strongly advises against this.

Forty-five years later and now a grown man, Harman uses his story to educate others about the importance of lawn mower safety. If he witnesses someone mowing a lawn with children nearby, Harman will stop and explain his experience and the dangers of lawn mowing equipment around children.

Lawn Mower Safety Tips lawnmower-3

It’s important to remember that a lawn is not a safe place when lawn equipment is in operation. A lawn mower can be a dangerous piece of equipment, and it is important to know lawn mower hazards in order to protect yourself and others.

  • Read the owner’s manual prior to using any lawn mower.
  • Familiarize yourself with the safe operation requirements, the instructions on safety decals and the placement and proper movement of operating controls.
  • Only use manufacturer approved attachments.
  • Inspect every lawn mower before use.
  • Before mowing, make sure that the lawn is free of rocks, toys and other objects.
  • Do not operate any lawn mower in wet or slippery conditions.
  • Never remove or immobilize any safety guards.
  • Do not allow children to play around a lawn mower when it is in use—or in storage.
  • Do not allow passengers to ride on lawn mowers while in operation, or when being towed behind a vehicle in a cart or trailer.
  • Children should be at least 12 years of age before they are allowed to operate a walk-behind powered lawn or hand mower, and 16 years old to operate a riding lawn mower.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, child operators must be able to demonstrate the necessary levels of adequate judgment, strength, coordination, safety and maturity before using lawn equipment.
  • Ensure that there is no debris of any kind on the ground prior to mowing a lawn-a necessity to protecting oneself against flying objects.
  • Take precautions to prevent hair, loose clothing or jewelry from becoming entangled in a lawn mower’s moving parts.
  • Proper personal protective equipment should be worn by every lawn mower operator (protection types: eyes – safety glasses; ears – ear plugs or muffs; feet – sturdy work boots).

References

American Academy of Pediatrics claims that a power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home – Lawn mower accident lawyer weighs in. (May 20, 2011). Retrieved May 21, 2013, from http://www.philadelphiainjuryattorneyblog.com/personal_injury/lawn_mower_accidents/

Power lawn mower injuries crop up with change of season. (April 10, 2007). John Hopkins Children’s Center. Retrieved May 21, 2013, from http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Power-Lawn-Mower-Injuries.aspx