Every summer, 30 million power lawn mowers are in use in the United States. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data shows that each year about 400,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from lawn tools. Children under the age of 14 and adults over the age of 44 are the most prone to injury.
Since nearly all mower accidents results from human error, it is important to recognize potential mowing hazards before they happen. A few simple precautions may help you enjoy your time spent outdoors, and help you get your work completed more efficiently. The Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center offers these helpful tips for staying safe and avoiding accidents while mowing:
- Review the operator’s manual that comes with the mower. Usually these manuals cover all aspects of the mower’s controls and moving parts. You should become familiar with the mower’s safety features, including how to stop the mower quickly in case of an emergency.
- Keep all safety shields and mower shut-off mechanisms in place. These are provided by the manufacturer to insure your safety. Removal of these devices or “shut off” mechanisms might seem to simplify a mower’s operation, but it can prove to be extremely hazardous.
- Never attempt to unclog a discharge chute while the mower is running. Always stop the mower’s engine before attempting to clear any grass clippings from the chute. Disconnect the spark plug wires on gasoline-powered mowers before making adjustments or clearing jams near moving parts. Remember that the mower’s blade is still very sharp, even when it is not turning.
- After stopping the mower’s engine, always use a stick or tool to clean out the discharge chute – never use your hand.
- Keep an eye on any children or pets playing in the area. A potential danger to these children is that they may be struck by flying objects that are thrown from the mower.
- Be aware of your surroundings when backing up your riding mower.
- Generally, mow up and down a slope when using a riding mover. Mow across the slope when using a push mower. For extremely steep slopes, consider planting other alternative ground covers instead of grass.
- Never carry passengers while mowing. A sudden turn or movement by the mower could result in the extra rider being thrown from the mower. Never let a child ride or operate a riding mower.
- Do not pull your walk-behind mower. Pulling the mower increases the likelihood that you will pull the blade onto your foot.
- Be careful when mowing around large shrubs or trees with limbs hanging at eye level. This poses a potential danger for trauma to your eyes. It is always a good idea to wear eye and ear protection while mowing.
- Dress appropriately by wearing sturdy shoes with good traction to help your feet from slipping under the blade and to give your feet some protection.
- Remove all objects from the area in which you are working that can cause injury, such as sticks, glass, metal, wire, and stones.
- Never leave a running lawn mower unattended.
We hope these guidelines will be a helpful resource to you as you prepare for the mowing season. We suggest that you spend a few minutes instructing your children about mowing safety. This time will be worthwhile for your family, and may prevent an accident from occurring.