There is something about lawn mowers that makes kids go nuts, especially when mom or dad allows them to take a ride. But the utter excitement children show for lawn mowers makes parents forget these machines are hazardous pieces of equipment. With spinning metal blades, heavy wheels, and deadly carbon monoxide gas spewing from the exhaust, lawn mowers cause more than 9,000 pediatric emergency room visits every year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
As summer persists, lawn mowers will be out daily in communities across the state. These dangerous machines can lead to life-threatening injuries. Connecticut parents must be cautious when mowing the lawn and know how to avoid the most common accidents to help keep their kids safe this season.
The Most Common Lawn Mower Accidents
Despite popular belief among children, lawn mowers are not toys. There are several features of law mowers that can put children at risk for serious and fatal injuries. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons highlights these as the most common lawn mower-related accidents to watch for:
Cuts and lacerations from mower blades are the most common lawn mower-related injury in children and responsible for nearly 40 percent of all accidents. A lawn mower blade spins at an average of 3,000 rpm, comparable to a car going 25 mph down the road. Children can easily get their hands and feet caught up in the mower’s blade when standing too close or if they slip while riding on the seat. A significant number of these injuries result in cuts so serve amputations are necessary to save the remainder of the extremities injured.
The engine or gas tank on a lawn mower becomes extremely hot during operation. Children who touch lawn mowers, even after they are turned off, can sustain serious burn injuries that can damage the skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments or even the bones depending on the depth of the burn.
Lawn mower blades operate with enough force to cause an ‘open broken bone,’ an injury where the skin above the bone is torn. These injuries are common after lawn mower accidents and can be extremely painful to recover from. Open fractures often involve damage to surrounding tissue, muscle, tendons, or ligaments, increasing a persons’ chance of infection and permanent damage.
A back-over accident occurs when someone is injured while the operator is backing up the lawn mower, typically with a ride on machine. According to a study by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, there were over 1,641 back-over injuries in the United States from 1990 to 2014. Over 70 percent of these injuries were individuals under the age of five.
Back-over accidents most often occur when the operator is not aware someone is behind them. According to NBC, safety advocates believe back-over accidents could be completely prevented if lawn mowers were unable to mow in reverse. However, mower manufacturers continue to grant the operators ability to override these features, defeating the purpose of the addition.
At least 600 lawn mower-related injuries result in partial or full amputations. Amputations are one of the most traumatic injuries a person can endure. Lawn mower-related amputation accidents most often involve the hands and feet in children. These injuries can be immediate caused by the force of the blade or a secondary consequence to another injury if the damage is severe.
All Children Are At Risk of Lawn Mower Injuries
Children under the ages of 17 are at highest risk for lawn mower accidents. In a study published in Science Daily, researchers found varying types of common lawn mower injuries depending on age. Children younger than five showed a higher risk of burn injuries from touching hot metal and back-over accidents. Children ages five to seventeen showed an elevated risk for injuries pertaining to being struck or cut, most often by the lawn mower or projectile objects when they are standing too close.
The A.A.P. reports children ages 3 and 16 are most at risk for injuries overall. Three-year-olds are incredibly intrigued by lawn mowers and will sneak up behind them without a thought. Sixteen-year-olds are more at risk for driving or operating injuries. Teens who help out at home with mowing the lawn may not be experienced or familiar with the equipment, which increases their risk for accidents.
Connecticut Lawn Mower Accidents
Freak lawn mower accidents can happen right here in Connecticut. Last month, two children in Fairfield were injured from a 10-inch metal that came flying through their car window. A nearby commercial lawn mower had sucked up the spike, propelling it 20-feet into the rear window of the vehicle the children were riding in. Thankfully, they sustained only minor injuries, but they were also 20-feet away from the lawn mower and behind glass. Not all children are this lucky.
In 2017, 4-year-old boy, Rocco Mongillo from Berlin, lost his hand in a lawn mower accident when riding with his father. Rocco was sitting in the seat, between his father’s arms and legs, when he suddenly slipped under the lawn mower. The family rushed Rocco to the hospital where doctors were forced to amputate his hand and wrist from the extensive damage. Rocco has since had five surgeries after his accident and will need many more as he grows.
No matter how safe and careful you try to be with your children around lawn mowers, accidents still happen. Connecticut parents should be aware of the most common lawn mower accidents that could put their children in harm’s way before they consider letting their kids out on the lawn.
How To Stay Safe
Lawn mower accidents are entirely preventable. Keep your children safe this summer by following these safety tips from the AAP, including:
- Never allow a child to ride on your lap when on a riding mower.
- Keep kids out of the yard when mowing the lawn to avoid back-over accidents.
- Clear out rocks and sticks that can be shot out of lawn mowers before you start.
- Do not allow children under the age of 16 to operate a ride on mower.
- Make sure your mower has safety features, such as a handle to activate blades on a push mower or a ride along that does not cut grass in reverse.
- Make sure kids are strong and mature enough to use a push mower.
- Have anyone in the yard at the time of mowing wear eye protection.