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The Informed Parent

Lawnmower Safety

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jul. 18, 2005

With summer in full swing many kids may be looking for a way that allows them to buy that coveted new tech toy, special outfit, or fund a short sports trip. Coincidentally many parents will be looking for some help around the house. Perhaps one of the most age-old child deferred duties is cleaning up the yard and mowing the lawn. While both kids and parents seem to benefit from this arrangement, it must be undertaken with a few important safety facts in mind.

Today there are multiple different varieties of lawn mowers with varying degrees of power availability. It is a parent’s responsibility to assure they have taught their child basic common sense and good judgment before entrusting them with machinery at any time. The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends that a child be at least twelve years old to operate a walk behind lawnmower, and at least sixteen to operate a ride along mower.

Prior to the operation of either of these machines the child should be instructed on all operation specifications of the mower, particularly the power and emergency options. The child should be taught a regimen in using the mower that will ensure the safety of himself and all others around him.

Optimally, a child should first examine the yard he is mowing. Any loose rocks, wood, toys or other substantial objects should be removed from the lawn. This will assure that these objects cannot be caught up in the blades of the mower and strike the operator or any bystander. Mowing should not be put off until dusk when vision is compromised. Nor should it be undertaken in poor conditions of wet grass or thunderstorms that could interfere with circuitry. Children must be cautioned at all times that the mower is not a toy. All younger children should keep away when the machine is being used. Under no circumstances should another child, regardless of age, be allowed to ride a mower when being operated by any one else.

When operating the mower, the child should wear well fitting clothes that cannot drape into the moving blades. Severe injuries and even death have been associated with operators being pulled into the blades of an active machine. Protective eyewear should be worn to prevent any object that might be thrown off by the moving blades from injuring the eyes. Mowers should be operated with respect to the incline that is being mowed so as not to slip under or turn over the machine. If more fuel is needed, the mower must be powered down and allowed to cool before filling the tank. Additionally, if the child is planning to work in multiple yards, the mower should be turned off before it is brought across any paths, driveways or intersections. With these precautions in place parents and their children can enjoy the extra time afforded by summer vacation to help diminish the family chores!

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