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Lawn mowers pose serious safety risks

Lawn mowers pose serious safety risks

HARRISONBURG—The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates more than 37,000 Americans suffer a power mower-related injury each year, resulting in about 90 deaths.

Unfortunately, mower injuries “are frequent occurrences throughout the spring and summer months,” said Dr. Eric Kramer, a Rockingham County emergency room physician.

He said mowing accidents tend to result in two categories of injury—lacerations and amputations, or blunt trauma.

“The more common are wounds to fingers and hands as the direct result of people attempting to hand-clear debris from lawn mower grass chutes while the engine is running and the cutting deck is still engaged,” Kramer said.

Blunt-trauma injuries occur when mowers and tractors turn over while the rider is moving along a steep grade, pinning them to the ground.

“Given the substantial weight of the machinery, patients sustain an array of physical damage ranging from severe arm and leg crush injuries to more significant chest and abdominal trauma,” Kramer said. “This often necessitates rapid transfer to a trauma center.”

And it’s not just drivers who are at risk; passengers are too. An estimated 9,400 children are injured by lawn mowers every year in the U.S., especially in rural areas, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Lawn mowers are responsible for 12% to 19% of traumatic amputations among kids.

Dana Fisher, chairman of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Safety Advisory Committee, advised against allowing children or pets nearby while mowing.

“Lawn mowers are powerful and potentially dangerous machines that are designed for one operator,” Fisher explained. “Adding an additional child rider makes it harder for the operator to control the machine and could lead to the child falling off and being seriously injured.”

Andy Seibel, associate extension specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech, said lawn mowers are “one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment that are out there.” He suggested operators familiarize themselves with their surroundings in order to safely use a mower.

Understanding the piece of equipment being used is equally important, said Logan Horne, a turf management teacher at Louisa County High School. “If it’s a zero-turn (mower), don’t worry about mowing at first,” he recommended. “Get it in an open area, and just drive it around. Get comfortable with turning it, backing up, spinning and all those kinds of things.”

Once familiar with the equipment, then it’s time to survey the area for debris, sticks, rocks or trash, Horne said. If you mow over a piece of trash, it will end up “in a thousand pieces that you then have to pick up.”

Even worse is running over a rock, he added. “The mower can shoot out material at over 200 miles an hour. So a rock coming out of there could hit someone 100 yards away and still hurt them.”

Once it’s determined that there are no impediments to mowing, Horne said, the operator should proceed with caution. “Take your time, don’t rush things, and don’t try to fight nature. If it’s really wet, you probably shouldn’t be out mowing.”

For more information on mowing safety, visit Farm Bureau’s safety resource page at

Media: Contact Fisher at 540-975-1849 or Seibel at 540-977-6214.