Experts Warn Parents About Dangers of Mowing and Allowing Children to Use Lawn Mower

(Image via Randy Alcorn's Twitter profile)

A new study shows that lawn mower injuries constitute some of the most traumatic injuries treated. Experts urge all parents to exercise extreme caution when mowing or letting children use the mower.

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine noted that upward of 13,000 children were treated for lawn mower injuries in the United States in 2015. That’s on top of the more than 68,000 adults who were treated. The researchers said that these numbers are down from a few years ago, when more than 17,000 children and 83,000 adults were treated for such traumatic injuries. Nonetheless, they urge caution when operating these machines. The study, which looked at 200 injuries among patients 18 and younger over a period of years, noted that “more than half of those admitted to a hospital with injuries from lawn mowers underwent an amputation, usually in the lower extremities.”

Examining the details, researchers found that bystanders are four times more likely to be injured as the operator of the lawn mower:

The most common types of lawn mower injuries were cuts (39%) and burns (15%). The hand/finger was the most commonly injured body region, followed by the leg, feet and toes. While most children were treated and released, more than eight percent were serious enough to be admitted to the hospital. Bystanders and passengers were almost four times more likely than operators to be admitted.

Doctors are reminding parents of just how dangerous a lawn mower can be:

“The blade is so sharp and it is going so fast that body parts are no match for it,” said Amy Morgan, program manager for the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Program at Penn State Children’s Hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children age 6 and younger be kept indoors during mowing.

“The mower is loud and the operator can’t always see or hear a small child who may run out in front or sneak up behind,” Morgan said. “Children that young assume that adults are looking out for them, but adults who are mowing are focused on the task at hand. It’s a set-up for injury.”

Since not mowing your lawn is usually is not an option (I’ve found that the neighbors don’t appreciate that kind of neglect), experts suggest the following common sense safety measures to help ensure you and your kids remain injury-free while maintaining your lawn:

  • Children should be at least 12 years old to operate a push mower and at least 16 years old before using a ride-on mower.
  • Adults should assess the coordination and maturity level of their children, and always supervise children using lawn mowers.
  • Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers and children younger than 6 years of age should be kept indoors during mowing.
  • Pick up any sticks, stones, or other objects in the lawn before mowing. Wear protective eyewear and sturdy shoes.
  • Always mow going forward. If you have to mow in reverse, look behind you to make sure no kids have snuck up behind you.
  • This may seem like common sense, but too many injuries happen when people don’t wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads.

A couple of final notes. My son is large for his age – 5’ 5″, 150 lbs. – but he’s only 11 years old, and I would not trust him yet to safely operate a lawn mower. My daughter is comparatively tiny, but full of energy. I am constantly keeping an eye out for her to dart every which way in the lawn. Know your kids’ strengths and challenges, and plan accordingly. Make sure they know all the safety rules before allowing them to earn extra allowance money mowing lawns this summer.