Summer Safety when Mowing the Lawn

LawnmowerJuly 12, 2011 – It is that time of year again, the spring rains and long warm days have lawns throughout New England growing rapidly green.  For homeowners, this means taking out the lawnmower and trying to make your lawn look like the outfield grass at Fenway Park.  Understandably, mowing the lawn can often be a time consuming task and as a result, it is tempting to shorten it by any means possible.  The unfortunate result is that people are cutting corners and not taking precautions when mowing the lawn and these trends and shortcuts are resulting in an increase of lawn mower related injuries.

In 2010 alone, approximately 253,000 individuals were treated for lawn mower related injuries according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.  This number was up 3% compared to 2009.  According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, 22% of the injuries involve the wrist, hand or finger, 14% involve the foot, ankle or toes and 25% of all hand and foot injuries result in amputation.  Other common injuries result in objects flying from the lawnmower and injuring the eye or people in the surrounding area.

Even for the most experienced lawn care expert, it is easy to take the power of a rotary lawn mower for granted.  The motion of a standard rotary blade is equivalent to dropping a 21 pound weight from a height of 100 feet or three times the energy that expels a bullet from a .357 magnum pistol.  An object in the path of a rotary blade can be sent flying from the lawnmower at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

The good news is that most lawn mower injuries are easily preventable.  According to Dr. Rod Bruno, a hand surgeon at Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics, “Every year I inevitably see the same thing.  Despite the warnings, somebody tips the lawnmower over and reaches underneath to unclog some grass or debris.  They don’t realize that even if the blade has stopped there may still be some energy stored in that rotary blade and it is ready to go as soon as the clog is released.  The lawnmower can cause devastating injuries to the hand.  You should never stick your hand in the path of the blade, there are no exceptions.”

Other easy ways that we can prevent lawnmower injuries are to make sure that the mower has an emergency shut-off if the handle is released, always clear objects and debris from the path before mowing, wear sturdy, closed toe shoes, and never mow backward or in reverse unless absolutely necessary.  Also, children should be kept at a safe distance (greater than 20 feet) and should never be allowed to ride a mower as a passenger.  Lawnmower operators should also wear eye and ear protection to protect the eyes from flying debris and to prevent hearing loss from long term exposure to noise.

Dr. Bruno concludes, “We all aspire to have the nicest lawn in the neighborhood, it would be nice if that goal could be accomplished without unnecessary trips to the emergency room.”