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Nothing can take the place of having a yard in the summertime. Even a small yard can provide adequate space for backyard BBQs, sunbathing, and a home vegetable garden. For kids, a yard can serve as a private sanctuary in which to play and explore nature. But as any property owner knows, a yard means constant upkeep, especially in the summer when grass grows rapidly. For many of us, cutting the grass is just another chore to check off our lists, but lawnmower accidents are more prevalent than one might think, making this chore one not to take lightly.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are 200,000 people injured each year because of lawnmowers – 16,000 of those are children.
That’s why it’s important – especially if you have kids – to take your time, do the job right, and know a bit about lawnmower safety.
TYPES OF LAWNMOWER ACCIDENTS/INJURIES
Accidents involving lawnmowers include the following scenarios and injuries:
Injuries incurred from objects (rocks, sticks, kids toys) flying out of the machine and striking a person.
Lacerations, fractures, broken bones and limb loss from contact with the blade (especially feet and hands).
Secondary infections resulting from blade injuries.
Burns from hot lawnmower engines or gas tanks.
Hitting a gas line with the mower and triggering a fire.
Injuries incurred from a mower tipping over.
Tripping and falling over the mower.
Back injuries from pulling on the cord to start the mower, or from pushing it.
Heart attack from overexertion in the heat (for those with a heart condition).
WHEN CAN MY KIDS MOW THE LAWN?
According to the Amputee Coalition, “more than 600 children undergo mower-related amputations each year.”
Although you might be biting at the bit to let your kids take over the chore that you’ve been doing year in and year out, you need to ask yourself, are they truly ready? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a child is at least 12 years old to safely operate a push mower, and 16 years old to safely operate a riding mower.
Of course some children need longer. The AAP urges parents to consider their children on a case-by-case basis and make sure they have the necessary maturity, good judgment, strength and coordination required to the job.
Once you do decide it’s time to teach your children how to mow the lawn, be sure to spend adequate time showing them how to operate the equipment and mow the lawn safely. Also, they should not be left unsupervised until you are absolutely certain they know what they’re doing. This means being present and observing them for at least the first few times they do it.
LAWNMOWER SAFETY TIPS
Before you get started:
Read the manual. Anyone using a lawnmower should read through the entire manual before operating it (including your kids). Be sure to store the manual somewhere that is easily accessible.
Only mow in the proper conditions. Never mow during a storm or when one might be approaching. There should be adequate daylight and the grass should be dry (dew can be slippery and the cut is not as uniform when grass is damp). To make the job less tasking on your body, avoid mowing on really hot days or during peak heat hours.
Survey your yard beforehand. Look for and remove debris such as sticks, rocks, or play toys. Know where any gas lines, pool filters, or other non-removable objects are so that you can safely navigate around them.
Know your physical limits. If you have a heart condition, or feel like the work is too demanding for your body, it is best to have someone else cut the grass. If you can’t find a willing friend, neighbor or relative, you can always hire someone to do it for you.
Children under 15 stay inside. Kids 15 and under should not be in the yard when someone else is mowing. Make sure they are in the house and that they know to stay there. There should be someone in the house to keep an eye on younger kids to ensure they don’t wander outside.
Use safety equipment. Make sure that all safety equipment is in place on the mower before you start it. This includes blade shields, protective guards and the grass catcher (if equipped with one).
No rides. Only one person should be on a riding mower – do not give anyone (including your kids) a ride.
While you mow:
Don’t touch. Keep hands, feet, hair and any other body part away from the blade at all times. Do not touch a hot motor or gas tank. The only time the underside of the mower should be exposed is for maintenance during which the mower should be shut off and cool to the touch.
Dress the part. Wear safety goggles, hearing protection and close-fitting clothing (long sleeved shirt and full length pants) that won’t get sucked into the mower. Wear closed-toe footwear.
Look out. Visibility is the key to safe lawn mowing. Keep a constant watchful eye for anything that might be in the way. Tall grass can easily hide rocks, holes or small bumps that can be a risk. Move slowly around buildings or other structures that conceal your view (such as a shed or the side of your house).
Turn it off and inspect. When in doubt, never hesitate to stop the mower and inspect an area before you head into it. If you hit an object, turn off the mower and inspect it for damage before proceeding. Never use a damaged mower.
It’s called a push mower not a pull mower. Do not pull a mower backward or drive a riding mower backward unless it is absolutely necessary. Be sure to look behind you before you do.
Use extreme caution on slopes. Push mowers should be used across slopes (not up and down) to avoid slipping and to prevent your foot from going underneath it. Riding mowers should be used up and down (not across) to avoid tipping.
Move slowly. Use caution and move slowly through areas with high weeds, around low-hanging bushes or trees, and around other potentially hazardous areas like swimming pools.
Stop the mower. Never walk away from the mower while it is running. Always stop a mower and let it cool before refueling. Turn it off and wait for the blade to stop before crossing paved or gravel walkways or roads. Do not change the blade or wheel height or clear a discharge chute or grass catcher (or tamper with anything else on the mower) while it is running.
Mowing the lawn doesn’t have to feel like just another chore. If you love your home and yard, you’ll take pride in maintaining it. Doing the work slowly and consciously can even make it feel meditative, and at the same time it help prevent careless mistakes, allowing you and your children to continue enjoying all that your little slice of backyard paradise has to offer.
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