Already tired of mowing the grass? Ready to turn it over to your children? Think again, please.
Mowing the grass may seem a harmless chore, but accidents that occur while a lawnmower is in use are expected to prompt as many as 60,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms this year. As many as one-fourth of the accidents — 15,000 — are expected to be serious injuries to the hands and feet.
Children can be particularly vulnerable. They can be injured when they run up to a lawnmower, slip and slide underneath it; run behind it, or ride on it. They also can be injured while playing in a yard where a parent or older brother or sister is mowing the grass.
One concern that many parents may have is a question from their children:
"How old do I have to be before I can mow lawns?" While children may be thinking of a money-making business rather than helping out around home, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be age 12 or older before operating a push lawn mower. In addition to a child's age, parents are encouraged to assess their child's level of maturity and sense of responsibility before saying “yes.”
A child's size — and also the size of the mower — are factors. So is a proven willingness to follow directions, lawn mowing is just like other employment. Like any job, training is a prerequisite. Parental supervision and ongoing interest also is advisable.
How old should a child be before using a riding lawnmower? While ages 14-16 are occasionally offered as guidelines, age, level of maturity and dependability, and the amount of parental supervision available are factors that contribute to safety considerations.
Injuries from power mowers can be far more serious than an occasional cut suffered from once-standard rotary push mowers. That doesn't mean, however, that power mowers can't be operated safely. Here are some safety tips to reduce risks:
- Make arrangements for children and pets to stay inside and/or well away from the area that is to be mowed.
- Pick up and dispose of yard debris before mowing. Injuries can result from seemingly-harmless debris — a twig that may have dropped from a tree or small rock washed into a lawn from a nearby garden area — can be sucked into the rotary motion of the mower blade and propelled much like a military missile. Such accidents can chip house paint, break windows and also injure innocent bystanders.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots with non-slip soles when mowing.
- Plan to mow only the grass. For example, using a lawnmower as a weed chopper may propel debris. Using a lawnmower as a trimmer also can be problematic, particularly when using a larger mower to trim a narrow edge, like curbside edging near a street.
- Turn off a lawnmower and allow the blade to come to a complete stop before trying to remove clogged grass or other debris.
- Mow hilly or uneven areas and garden or other edges with added caution - tripping and falling into a mower or slipping on a hill and allowing a mower to roll back over the person doing the mowing are listed as causes of injuries.
- Keep mower in tip-top shape.
- Store gas, oil and other mowing supplies in appropriate containers away from children and pets. Storing them away from the house — in a garage or garden shed — also can help reduce the risk of fire damage to the home.
- Replenish gas and oil in a well-ventilated, non-grassy area.
- Say “no” to requests for rides on lawnmowers or garden tractors. Do not encourage children to become familiar and comfortable around the garden tractor or lawnmower.
Page 2 of 2 - Maintaining a lawn need not be dangerous. Common sense — and a little caution — can help reduce risks that may occur during yard and garden care. Lawnmower accidents are especially dangerous because of the bacteria and germs that are pounded into the wound by the lawnmower and can lead to serious infections.
Please, be especially careful around lawnmowers this summer. If you as an adult are getting tired of mowing the lawn, there are many professionals who will do the job rather than having your child do it.
Contact the McPherson County Extension Office at 620-241-1523, or check our website, www.ksre.ksu.edu