Mowing the lawn is a task often assigned to older children and teens, but it can be a dangerous task if proper safety measures aren't followed, several physician groups warn.
More than 800 Americans a day are treated for injuries suffered while cutting lawns.
In 2013, more than 301,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in a medical clinic or emergency department, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. More than 10,500 of those injuries occurred in children younger than 18.
"Behind the often pleasant summer task of mowing the yard lurks a serious threat to the health of children, youth and adults. We are hopeful that disseminating information about lawn mower safety may eliminate the thousands of mutilating and at times fatal injuries resulting from the use of both riding and push- or walk-behind lawn mowers," Dr. Allen Bishop, president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), said in a news release issued jointly by three national medical societies.
The ASRM is joining with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and American Academy of Pediatrics to educate people about lawn mower safety.
"Lawn mower safety should never take a back seat," AAOS President Dr. Frederick Azar said in the news release. "No matter how small the task, or how often it's performed, families should always proceed with caution and most importantly seek and share safety tips to help reduce their risk for injury."
The groups offered the following lawn mower safety tips:
- Use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is released.
- Keep lawn mowers in good working order and have it serviced before you use it for the first time in a season.
- Before mowing, check the lawn for stones, toys and other objects that can be shot out from the mower and become dangerous projectiles.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good traction and polycarbonate protective eyewear. Anyone else in the vicinity of the mower should also wear protective eyewear.
- Children should be at least 12 years old before they are allowed to use a push mower, and at least 16 to use a driving lawn mower.
- Make sure other children are out of the yard when mowing and never allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.
- Only pull the mower backward or mow in reverse when absolutely necessary. When mowing in reverse, be sure to check for children behind you.
- To prevent riding mower rollovers, drive up and down slopes, never across them.
- Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to come to a complete stop before your remove the grass catcher, unclog the discharge chute, inspect or repair the mower, or when you cross gravel paths, roads or other areas.
- If there is debris in the lawn mower, remove it with a stick or broom handle. Never use your hands or feet.