Injury Prevention lawnmower cartoonEach spring and summer, hospitals see the results of injuries caused by power lawn mowers. Increasingly, research shows that these injuries are more frequent and serious in rural regions, affecting younger children compared to urban areas. Many of these incidents result in painful injuries, loss of fingers, toes and even eyes. Below are a few recommendations to protect you from getting hurt. Good lawn mower maintenance coupled with these safety tips can ensure that the grass is the only thing that gets cut.

Safety Tips

Children and Lawn Mowers

  • Children should not be allowed on or near a lawn mower when it’s in use. They should never be permitted to walk along side, in front of or behind a moving mower. Rocks and other debris often can shoot out of a lawn mower while it is running.
  • The AAP recommend that a child be 12 years of age to operate a power mower.
  • Children under 5 years of age should be kept indoors during mowing. They can behave unpredictably and might run into the mower’s path.
  • Don’t allow children to play on or around a lawn mower, even when it’s not in use – they need to learn that lawn mowers aren't toys.
  • Inspect the area to be mowed for stones, tree branches, nails and wires – these objects can be picked up by the mower and expelled at bullet-like speeds, causing serious injury.
  • Don’t cut wet grass.
  • Always push the mower forward, never pull it backward toward you. A sloping lawn should be mowed across, never up and down. When the mower is pushed from the bottom of the hill, it could roll back on the operator’s feet. When the mower is being pulled from the top of the hill, the operator's feet could easily slip under the mower.
  • Never drink alcoholic beverages and operate a lawn mower.
  • Work clothes such as steel-toed shoes with sure-grip soles and long pants should be worn to minimize injury.
  • When using a gas-powered lawn mower, never refuel when the engine is running. Turn off the engine and let it cool first.
  • When using an electric lawn mower, make sure the extension cord is not cut or frayed and is the right gauge for the electrical current. A ground fault circuit interrupter cord is helpful as well.

Riding Mowers

  • Riding mowers were not meant for passengers; carrying children or other adults invites the potential for falling under the mower and sustaining serious injuries.
  • The AAP recommend that a child be 16 years of age to operate a riding mower.
  • Carts are not meant for passengers, either. A cart can easily tip over, and riders can be seriously hurt.
  • When mowing in reverse, remember to look behind you for potential danger or bystanders.
  • A sloping lawn should be mowed up and down when using a riding mower, to prevent rollover.

Lawn Mower Maintenance

  • Not all mowers operate the same way. Read the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with your model before operating it.
  • Perform routine maintenance at the beginning of each season and before each use. Go over the entire mower, especially the blades.
  • Check safety features often, and repair or replace your lawn mower if needed.

Prepared by Lisa Marie Bernardo, RN, PhD, CEN, and Mary J. Gardner, RN