Outdoor yard care that starts in the spring and summer continues year-round, and garden tools and power mowers remain on consumer wish lists. Teens still earn money by offering their services to neighbors in need. Dad asks for a new power riding lawn mower for his birthday. Little ones are fascinated by the movement and sounds of big equipment and want to be “just like daddy.”
The lawn mower on Dad’s birthday list, however, ranks on many other lists as one of the most dangerous garden tools. The prevalence of harm can account for as many as 230,000 injuries annually from lawn and garden tools, with 81,000 of those related to lawn mower injuries alone. Many of those injured are children under the age of 18 and adults over the age of 60. Because most mowers are advanced and relatively easy to operate, the training is often neglected. Kids as young as 12 are operating riding lawn mowers, yet are not old enough to obtain a driving license.
Injuries from lawn mowers can come in the form of minor cuts, to exhaust fuel inhalation and burns, to flying debris that could cause limb amputation of someone in the line of fire. Riding mowers are especially dangerous because they can tip over (when riding up a hill), cause someone to be pinned underneath if the person falls off the seat or the back from riding along, or slip into a pond causing electrocution. Accidents can happen in an instant.
No matter what type of lawnmower you are using now, or intending to buy, it remains good practice to visit specialty stores and websites for consumer ratings regarding safety and usability. With blades that spin on an average of 160 miles per hour, safety precautions become more important than just the obvious practice of keeping hands and feet away from the mower at all times. Manufacturers have installed features found in many mowers today such as: shift-interlocks which are attached as part of the hand grip for better control; energy safety clutch for starting the engine; rear wheel drive for better traction when the bag is full; valve covers that help the mower last longer and create far less pollution; and a break-away clutch for changing the bag without the need to turn off the mower. Before using the mower for the first time, view the video that comes with it, and take note in the instructions of any distinctions in operation from your previous form of equipment.
Once you have become familiar with the mower, stick with the general rules for accident prevention:
- Wear closed-toed shoes when operating a mower, or when outside in the vicinity of someone using a mower. (Consumer Reports noted in 2011 that 77% of people do not wear headgear and 14% mow the lawn wearing flip-flops or sandals.)
- Push the hand mower ahead of you, and never pull it back toward you too quickly, particularly when mowing uphill.
- Wear eye protection and ear protection.
- Mow on sturdy and level ground.
- Become aware of surroundings and kids in the area by picking up any toys or tools in the yard that might be hidden in longer grass.
- Refrain from allowing kids to hang on the back of a riding mower.
- Check equipment for loose blades before use.
- Refrain from mowing after a rain when the ground is wet and puddles are hidden by grass and terrain.
- Put the mower in the correct “off” setting before cleaning debris from the blades.
Lawn mower injuries are especially unpleasant. They are dirty, often requiring the removal of small debris, tiny blades of grass, and even small rocks that become embedded in the flesh. The damaging effects are long-term, as well, as many of those injured have reported on-going sensitivity to loud noises, permanent nerve damage and constant anxiety.
Our yards are meant to be enjoyed, but we can’t enjoy them if they are a breeding ground for unsafe practices in landscape care. It is always best to be prepared and educated when it comes to outdoor equipment of any kind. Relying on common knowledge is no longer the norm as technical advances in performance and safety are implemented for lawn mowers and other equipment. If you have been injured in a lawn mower accident due to faulty conditions with the mower or mishandling of equipment by another party, seek appropriate advice from an attorney who specializes in personal injury litigation.