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Hospital offers lawn mower safety tips

Verbatim statement issued Monday:

INDIANAPOLIS – With springtime in full swing, Hoosiers are starting to tackle their growing lawns. But before you get out the lawn mower, Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health wants families to take caution.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home. Each year, emergency departments treat approximately 68,000 people with lawn mower injuries – those who are operating lawn mowers as well as those who are simply nearby in the yard. More than 9,000 of those injury cases are children under age 18.

"The most common lawn mower injury we see is maimed or amputated extremities," said Dr. Tres Scherer, medical director, Riley Pediatric Trauma Center at IU Health. "This happens when a child unexpectedly approaches a lawn mower from behind and the operator of the mower inadvertently backs over the child."

Other common lawn mower injuries can include deep cuts, fractures, head and eye injuries, and burns. Hidden objects in the yard are a common culprit. Mowers project the items into the air, turning them into flying missiles.

"The bottom line is that adults and children need to exercise caution and common sense when operating any type of machinery – especially lawn mowers," Scherer said. "Good advice is to expect the unexpected."

To prevent lawn mower injuries to children, Riley at IU Health and the AAP recommend the following:

  • Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area that you plan to mow.
  • Inspect the lawn before mowing and pick up hidden objects in the grass.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.
  • Children under age 12 should not use walk-behind mowers.
  • Children under age 16 should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers.
  • Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
  • Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
  • Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
  • Make sure that blade settings are done by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug removed or disconnected.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
  • Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released.

Journey through gardening season with Rosa Salter Rodriguez (feature writer), Anne Gregory (Web editor and writer), Frank Noonan (copy editor) and Cathie Rowand (photographer)