The power lawn mower is considered one of the most dangerous tools around the home. Each year, more than 74,000 small children, adolescents and adults are injured by rotary, hand and riding power mowers due to improper handling.
Lawn mower injuries include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones, burns, and eye and other injuries. Some injuries are very serious. Both users of mowers and those who are nearby can be hurt.
The kinetic energy (motion) imparted by a standard rotary blade is comparable to the energy generated by dropping a 21-pound weight from a height of 100 feet or is equal to three times the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum pistol. Blade speed can eject a piece of wire or an object at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.
The most commonly injured person is an adult 25-64 (those most often doing the mowing) or a child under age five. About a fourth of all lawnmower injuries (22%) involve the wrist, hand or finger. About 14% involve foot, ankle or toes. Of all the hand and foot injuries, about 25% will result in amputation.
- As with other power tools and equipment, do not operate a lawn mower when consuming alcohol.
- Wear appropriate clothing: sturdy shoe, not sandal; eye and hearing protection.
- Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
- Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
- Young children should be at a safe distance from the area you are mowing.
- Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
- Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
- Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary - carefully look for others behind you when you do.
- Start and refuel mowers outdoors - not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
- Blade settings should be set by an adult only.
- Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads. (As a safety feature, some newer models have a blade/brake clutch that stops the blade each time the operator releases the handle.)
To help educate the public and prevent injuries, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), and American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS) offer a video, “When Lawn Mowers Attack,” with tips on how to avoid injuries
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Online.
Lawn Mower Safety; American Academy of Pediatrics
Keep Your Hands Safe: Follow Lawnmower Safety Tips; American Society for Surgery of the Hand
Lawn mower-related injuries to children; J Trauma. 2005; 59(3):724-8; Abstract