Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lawn mower safety

There’s an old saying: the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but you still have to mow it!  I remember as a kid, when Daddy was out mowing the yard, everyone was out in the yard doing something…it was like a lawn party!  That is, until one of my school mates got an eye put out while in the yard with HIS Dad mowing.  The lawn party was over!

Lawn mower accidents are quite common at this time of year, and account for a large percentage of accidental partial or complete amputations.  The energy transferred by a lawn mower blade is equivalent to being shot in the hand with a .357 Magnum pistol – dirt and bacteria can be embedded in a wound creating a high risk for infection.  Also, metal and wood can be ejected up to 100 mph, making debris a flying missile.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010.  17,000 of these injuries were children under the age of 19.  Injuries included dislocated or broken bones, deep cuts, missing fingers and toes, limb amputations, burns, and eye injuries.  Very often, these injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties to repair them.  Many patients must endure painful reconstructive surgeries for months, and sometimes years, to restore form and function.  There are also long-term social and psychological complications that occur with these injuries.

The dangers of a lawn mower are very real, but very preventable.  Just follow a few simple tips:

  • Keep children a safe distance away from the area being mowed, or better still, inside the house
  • Children should NEVER be passengers on a riding lawn mower
  • Create a danger zone of 20 feet around the lawn mower, and shut the machine down whenever anyone gets within that distance
  • Teach children to stay away from all running lawn mowers
  • Children should be at least 12 years old before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a riding lawn mower
  • Make sure you always know where your kids are when mowing the lawn.  You can’t assumed that children will stay where you put them!!  Use extra caution when backing up, going around corners, shrubbery, and other obstacles
Unlike the urban legend, lawn mowers do not attack.  Common sense will keep you and your family safe!

That’s it for today....time to watch the grass grow!!

Debbie Nichols, RN, BSN, is the Injury Prevention/Trauma Outreach Coordinator for Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

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