The hum of a lawn mower and the smell of freshly mown grass are part of the summer experience for many Americans. But for about 80,000 consumers who use the mowers or just get too close to them, so are annual visits to hospital emergency rooms.
Power lawnmowers are safer now than they used to be-assuming they’re used correctly. But even when every precaution is followed, the machines are not risk free. Trauma surgeons put it like this:
A typical 25- to 26-inch-long gas mower blade rotating around 3,000 RPM has three times the muzzle energy of a .357 magnum pistol-a gun with the power to fire a bullet through the engine block of a car. When small debris such as pebbles or other potential projectiles hit the mower blades, the machine has the potential to become a deadly weapon.
But 12 percent of consumers nonetheless drink beer while they mow the lawn, according to one Consumer Reports poll. Others cut the grass in flip-flops, let their preteens use riding mowers and try to unclog grass chutes before the blades have fully stopped, doctors report.
Every summer, emergency room doctors treat deep cuts, lopped fingers and toes, crushed and broken bones, joint injuries, burns, infections and even fatal injuries resulting from the direct or indirect use of power mowers.
Environmentalists argue the best way to curb injuries-and simultaneously reduce pollution–is to replace power mowers with old-fashioned push reel mowers, the ones powered by people. But if you’re not ready to take that step yet, then at least protect yourself.
- If you feel like having a beer, don’t mow the grass.
- Wear proper shoes. That does not include sandals, flip-flops or any fancy footwear.
- Don’t think you’re too smart for safety devices, such as blade guards. They were invented because someone got hurt, so it’s counterproductive to disable them.
- The minute you free a jammed blade, it could start to spin. So remove the spark plug or unplug an electric mower before you try to free a jammed blade.
- Be cautious on hills and slopes. Mow across with a push mower; mow up and down with a riding mower.
- Recent rain is an excuse to stay on the porch. Do not cut wet grass.
- If your child is too young to drive your car, then he’s too young to drive your ride-on mower. Kids should be 16 to handle a ride-on mower, and at least 12 to run a walk-behind power mower.