How to avoid lawn mower injuries

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Lawn mower accidents can be pretty devastating.  They can mangle a hand or foot, or injure an eye.  The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons released these tips to avoid lawn mower injuries this summer.  Even though they are simple and obvious, they are worth a read.  Every year I see someone who has something in their eye thrown from a lawn mower and occasionally I see more serious injuries due to rocks.

Often I see someone with a mangled finger or hand who tried to remove debris from the blades before they had completely stopped, or gets a bare foot or toe caught underneath.  I know of children being killed when they fall off the larger tractor type mowers.

Invariably the victims say they feel so dumb, but really they just had a lapse of judgement.

Read these tips and keep them in the back of your mind.

The ASRM, ASPS, ASMS, AAP and AAOS offer the following tips to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:

  • 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.
  • Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing – not sandals.
  • 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.
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection.
  • 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.)

Do you have any more tips to add?  Have you every experienced an injury?

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16 Responses to “How to avoid lawn mower injuries”

  1. cathy Says:

    Good post. My mom lost one of her big toes and parts of other toes in a lawn mowing accident. She hit a tree root while mowing, and the mower bucked back onto her foot. She was wearing sneakers, which are no match for mower blades.

    So I guess I would add to watch for and be careful around hidden dangers like tree roots.

    cathys last blog post..Meatless Monday – Frittata

  2. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Thanks Cathy. Tree roots are something I haven’t thought about.

    James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.s last blog post..How to Stop Snoring: 5 proven tips from a doctor

  3. Dr. J Says:

    I worry about any spinning blades! Thanks for this review. With all the tree damage from our storms here, my “scariest” yard activity has been using a chain saw! Perhaps that’s a topic for another post.

    Dr. Js last blog post..Senators fight for Philadelphia feeding program

  4. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Dr. J you are so right. I’ve never used a chainsaw since one of my physician friends had one kick back and hit his forehead.

    James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.s last blog post..How to Stop Snoring: 5 proven tips from a doctor

  5. Sagan Says:

    It’s amazing how dangerous lawn mowers can be! But it’s a great workout. I really enjoy mowing the lawn.

    Sagans last blog post..How much food is just right?

  6. Steve Parker, M.D. Says:

    I get goosebumps just thinking about lawn-mower injuries! Scary stuff.

    My closest encounter with a lawn-mower injury was in my teen years when I almost had a heat stroke mowing lawns in the Oklahoma summer to raise a little “green” of a different kind.

    I live in the Sonoran desert now and have natural, grass-free landscaping. I don’t miss the weekly lawn ritual I had in Florida!


    Steve Parker, M.D.s last blog post..Colesevelam (Welchol) Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

  7. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Sagan you are right. Better than paying someone else and going to the gym. Just watch the toes.

    James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.s last blog post..How to Stop Snoring: 5 proven tips from a doctor

  8. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Steve. Yes, heat strokes are another possibility. Good point. I need to write about those also.

    James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.s last blog post..How to Stop Snoring: 5 proven tips from a doctor

  9. WarmSocks Says:

    The only lawn care injury I’ve experienced was at a public park when the grounds crew arrived and started mowing. We were over 100 yards away, but were leaving as a safety precaution. Didn’t get out of there quickly enough. Those commercial mowers throw rocks a long way!

    Most of the above tips are things that I was taught as a little kid, and they seem obvious to me. I would take exception to the first one, though. As a parent, I teach my children safety and I am a better judge of their abilities and sense of responsibility than some vague committe members who have never met my kids. My kids can legally drive a tractor on the county road at age 14, but have to wait an extra two years to get on a little riding mower? Not realistic.

    WarmSockss last blog post..Menus

  10. jhubbard Says:

    Wow, I would think I would be safe from 100 yards away. Thanks for the info.

  11. A few digits shy of 20 Says:

    When I was 15 I was mowing on a slope….silly me pulled the lawnm mower back toward me and cut my second toe very short and then it cut around the big toe. It’s annoying and unfortunately no discounts on pedicures darn it!

  12. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Few digits shy of 20

    Sounds painful.

    James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.s last blog post..The Secrets Doctors Don’t Tell You About Prescription Medicine

  13. Mowing The Grass – A Dangerous Pursuit? « le Decostone Gardens Blog Says:

    [...] what’s the solution? Well, you can start reading up on how to avoid lawn mower injuries OR you can decide to install artificial grass. Long term you are likely to reap far greater [...]

  14. Hazel Owens Says:

    I’m surprised that the suggested ages for kids to operate mowers are so high. I understand that lawnmowers, especially ride-on mowers, can be dangerous, but 12 and 16 are pretty old. It’s a good safety guideline, but if you teach your children proper safety procedures, they can probably mow the lawn sooner. Thanks for the article.

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