One of the best things about when kids grow up is being able to hand down some of the day-to-day chores that parents are used to doing. Like wheeling the trash cans down to the curb (and bringing the emptied cans back up to the house), shoveling the snow off the driveway, and, when we think they are old enough and strong enough, cutting the grass. Friend and physical therapist John Duffy reminds us on his blog that things aren’t as simple, or safe, as they appeared to be back in the day:
I bought my first mower by age 14 and pushed it all around the neighborhood…sometimes over a mile, to cut lawns for customers I had. My grass bag was made of an old bedspread my Mom sewed together, as a new one cost $$$. The steel toe shield that’s supposed to stop the feet from going under the mower was tied up with an old piece of leather from a baseball mitt….I hated the sound of the metal dragging on the road while I pushed the mower up the streets. So, that being said, mowing CAN be done safely by kids, but as this article shows….it’s not always done safely. I’ve already mowed my lawn once, so for those with young ones or kids entering that age where they will start mowing, please read and share.
The data for the article Duffy shares comes from a study of 199 children, 17 years old and younger, who were injured by lawn mowers and hospitalized in Pennsylvania trauma centers between 2002 and 2013. The study found:
>> Most injuries (91%) occurred between April and September.
>> Most injuries (81%) occurred in boys.
>> Most injuries (65%) involved the lower extremities.
>> 55% of injuries involved riding mowers; 45% were from push mowers.
>> More than half (53%) of injuries required amputation.
Injuries were caused most commonly when children ran behind a mower; slipped under the mower while riding as passenger; collided with mower blades when machines were steered in reverse; and were struck by a mower that rolled over due to an uneven and/or wet surface. In many cases adults did not realize children were near the mower when injuries occurred.
In a 2001 statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention (reaffirmed in 2010), age and maturity guidelines were suggested for lawn mower safety:
No age-specific criteria for use of lawn mowers have been established by the industry or government. However, children should not operate lawn mowers until they have displayed appropriate levels of judgment, strength, coordination, and maturity necessary for their safe operation. They should also receive a period of operational training, safety instruction, and supervision by an adult before they are allowed to operate a mower by themselves. Because of the complexities involved in safe operation, a prudent guideline for the minimum age for operation of lawn mowers by children is at least 16 years for ride-on mowers and at least 12 years for walk-behind power mowers and hand mowers.
The committee offered seven commonsense recommendations for parents and industry to heed. Here are the first two:
- Young children must not be allowed to play in or be adjacent to areas where lawn mowers are being used. Children younger than 6 years should be kept indoors during mowing.
- Children must not be allowed to ride as passengers on mowers or to be towed behind mowers in carts or trailers. They should not be permitted to play on or around the mower when it is in use or in storage.
The study’s authors advise a springtime campaign for lawn mower safety:
“We have to find a way to stop kids from being around lawn mowers,” Armstrong said in the release. “Many parents do not realize that the blade is such a forceful, blunt instrument — even if it is hidden under the mower.”
He added, “These injuries are devastating to kids and their families.”
Armstrong and colleagues recommended the creation of a spring education campaign that employs social media, school nurses, pediatricians, TV ads and other resources to remind parents how to keep children safe from lawn mower injuries.