While operating a lawn mower is a common task this time of year, it can be dangerous. Flying debris, moving and hot parts, and errors in judgment can quickly lead to serious injury.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 80,000 people make an unexpected trip to the emergency room each year because of lawn mower injuries. Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe this lawn-mowing season.
1. Inspect your lawn. Before cutting your lawn, take a quick walk around your property. Look for debris that could cause injury if it shot out of your lawn mower, including
- Children’s toys
If you live in a neighborhood with lots of dog walkers, you may also want to make sure there are no unwanted surprises.
2. Pay attention to your surroundings. If your neighborhood is active, pay attention to what's going on around you. Be on the lookout for walkers/runners, strollers, and small children riding their bikes. If they come into close proximity to you, stop mowing and shut off your lawn mower. This will prevent debris from shooting out in their direction and allow parents to be heard if they're giving their children commands like, “Stop at the corner” or “Watch for cars.”
3. Train your yard crew. If you have kids, they may be eager to help you cut the lawn. If they're like my 14-year-old daughter, an opportunity to earn money may be the motivator. If you let them help, it's recommended that kids be at least 12 years old to operate a push mower. If you have a riding mower, the recommended age is 16.
You would never just turn over the keys of your car to a new driver, and the same holds true with the lawn mower. Explain to them how the lawn mower works, emphasizing safety and different scenarios they may encounter. Cut a couple of rows so they can see how it's done. When it's their turn, walk with them and provide instruction. Once you feel confident, let them try it on their own. I would, however, recommend that you stay close and watch the first few times.
4. Enforce a no play zone. When cutting the lawn, it's important to keep your children out of harm's way. Let them know that when you're cutting, they're not allowed near you. Tell them where they can play or what they can do to pass the time until you're finished. In addition, it's always a good idea to leave your pets inside.
5. Avoid giving rides. While it may seem harmless to give your kids or others a ride, it's best to avoid this. In the blink of an eye, slips and falls can lead to serious, or even deadly, accidents.
6. Go with the flow. If you have steep slopes in your yard, make sure you drive up and down and not side to side. While the crossing patterns may be more visually appealing, you'll prevent mower rollover if you avoid this.
7. Protect your eyes. It’s always important to wear glasses or goggles when working in your yard, especially if you're cutting around trees with low hanging branches.
8. Wear appropriate shoes. This seems like a no brainer, but being a flip-flop guy, I know it's tempting to wear them. Instead, wear shoes or boots with good traction and stability. Uneven ground or slippery areas can lead to injuries.
9. Protect your ears. Wear earplugs or safety earmuffs when using your lawn mower, trimmer, or blower. According to Consumer Reports, we should try to avoid extended exposure to sound that's 75 to 85 decibels or more. Above that, hearing protection should be worn. Lawn mowers, sporting events, concerts, and movie theaters can produce sounds well over 100 decibels. Hearing protection is easy to get and affordable. I recently bought a 30-count box of foam earplugs for less than $10.
10. Always inspect with the motor off. A sudden clog caused by a clump of grass or other yard debris may tempt you to lift up the lawn mower to clear it. Always shut down the mower before conducting a physical inspection.
11. Cool down time. After a hard day’s work, give your lawn mower time to cool down before storing it. A lawn mower's muffler can reach 240 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause a fire if it's stored next to flammable objects.
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