Horticulture News: Remember safety when mowing this summer

By Kim Cowherd Published:


Summer is fast approaching and some of our schools will even be out for summer vacation this coming week!

One home maintenance task that adults often delegate to teens and older children is mowing the lawn.

This seemingly simple task can be a lucrative first job for an industrious older teenager. However, many times there is little or no instruction on how to safely operate the mower and other practices that should be followed to prevent injuries to people and property.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute gives us some statistics and tips for keeping our children and ourselves safe.  

Youngsters don’t understand the dangers that mowing can pose. Children under 18 suffer 13 percent of the 68,000 mower injuries treated annually in emergency rooms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With that in mind, the AAP recommends that no child younger than 12 operate a walk-behind mower, that no teen younger than 16 drive a riding mower and that children never be allowed to ride along as passengers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that more than 230,000 people per year are treated for injuries from lawn and garden tools. These tools include lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers and other power equipment. Injuries include minor to severe burns and lacerations, broken and dislocated bones, eye injuries and loss of fingers, toes and legs.

Each year, about 75 people are killed and about 20,000 are injured on or near riding lawnmowers and garden tractors. One out of every five deaths involves a child. 

 More than 800 young children get run over or backed over by riding mowers each year. This happens when children fall while being given rides, or when they approach the operating mower.

Use care around kids

Children see mowing activity, want to ride along and approach the mower sometimes faster than the adult can see them. Never assume children will remain where you last saw them. 

Be alert and turn off the mower if children enter the mowing area. Use extra care when backing up or going around corners, shrubs, trees or other obstacles.

With all lawnmowers, there is a risk of a thrown object from the chute or from underneath the mower deck. Small children are at special risk since an object thrown from a lawnmower that would strike an adult in the leg could cause a much more serious injury by striking a small child in the body or the head.

Many children suffer serious burns to their hands and arms when they touch the hot muffler of running or recently running engines. 

Protecting children in and around lawn care equipment can be accomplished by taking the appropriate precautions. While children may want to ride on mowers or other equipment keeping a firm “no riders” policy will help prevent injuries and allow for a safe, enjoyable summertime. None of us wants to be the topic on the nightly news or a grim statistic from a serious lawn mower or power tool accident.

Here are safety tips for using all outdoor power equipment that will keep you, your children, and others safe this season. 

10 rules to follow

1. Know how to operate the equipment. Read the operator’s manual before using any power equipment. Know where the controls are and what they do. Follow safety instructions.

2. Dress properly for the job. Wear long pants, sturdy shoes – no flip flops or sandals! Don’t wear anything that could get caught in moving parts (loose jewelry or clothing; be careful of long hair).

3. Handle gas carefully. Fill up before you start, while the engine is cold. Don’t spill when you fill. Store gas in an approved container in a cool ventilated area. Never smoke around gasoline.

4. Clear the area before you start. Pick up rocks, twigs, cans, small balls, anything that could be taken under the mower.

5. Keep children and pets away from the area until you’re finished. 

6. Operate equipment carefully and follow recommended procedures. Always turn off the engine and disconnect the spark plug wire before attempting to unclog or work on power equipment. When leaving equipment unattended, turn off the engine and remove key.

7. Keep safety mechanisms operational. Never bypass the engine kill handle or remove the guard discharge shields.

8. Keep hands and feet away from moving parts. Never work on equipment while it is running. Never remove or tamper with safety devices and labels.

9. Wear hearing protection. Wear hearing protection such as special earmuffs to prevent potentially damaging sounds from reaching your ears without eliminating the sounds you’ll NEED to hear. 

10. Wear eye protection. Your vision is precious and can be lost or damaged in seconds from flying debris from a lawnmower, string trimmer or other power equipment. Use shatter-proof, approved eye-wear that fits your face comfortably when using power equipment. 

For more information regarding outdoor power equipment safety, log on to http://members.opei.org/education/safety/tips-/. Or contact the Franklin County Extension Office at 695-9035 or email Kim.Cowherd@uky.edu.


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