June 3, 2011 -- Lawn-mowing safety precautions are essential to help reduce the thousands of injuries received every year by children and adolescents, five national medical organizations warn.
In 2010, about 253,000 people were treated for lawn-mower-related injuries; nearly 17,000 of those involved children under age 19, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
And lawn mower injuries were up 3% in 2010 compared to 2009.
"Lawn mower injuries to children are easily preventable," says Keith Brandt, MD, president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), in a news release. "Children should remain inside the house or under direct supervision of another adult whenever a lawn mower is being used."
He says if another adult is not available to supervise, the person doing the cutting should "create a danger zone of 20 feet around the mower" and that the machine should be shut down if anyone gets within that distance.
Besides the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, other organizations involved in issuing the warning include the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The organizations state in a news release that many injuries related to lawn mowers require a team of doctors from various specialties to treat and repair. Often, they say, patients must go through painful reconstructive operations for months or years to restore form and function.
Tips to Avoid Lawn Mower Injuries
The groups issued the following tips to reduce injuries:
- Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower and at least 16 before they are allowed to operate a riding mower.
- Children should never be passengers on riding mowers.
- Operators of mowers should wear sturdy shoes, not sandals.
- Young children should be kept at a safe distance from the area being mowed.
- Adults should pick up stones, toys, and other debris from the lawn to prevent them from becoming flying objects that could cause injury.
- Mowers should be used that have a control that stops the machine from moving forward if the handle is released.
- Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for others when going backward is necessary.
- Eye and hearing protection should be used while mowing.
Lawn mowers can cause serious eye injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children near lawn mowers that are in operation should wear polycarbonate protective eyewear.
Prevention of Injuries
"Every year at this time, it is common to see children operating or playing around lawn mowers in unsafe ways," says O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "We want parents and kids to be more aware of precautions to take so that injuries can be prevented."
Steven Buchman, MD, president of the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, says a significant number of "devastating injuries" occur to children and adults that can be life-changing events.
Phillip Haeck, MD, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, says he has seen "broken and dislocated bones, deep cuts, missing fingers and toes, limb amputations, burns, and eye injuries" caused by lawn mowers.