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Mowing your lawn safely

OPINION by Alex Dykes | April 5, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
Alex Dykes, GC Extension - Submitted photo

Lawn mowers are essential equipment found in many homes with a yard in the United States. They enable homeowners and groundskeepers to comply with municipal codes and maintain neat and good-looking lawns by cutting down grass. Many children and teenagers also earn extra money by mowing lawns during the grass-growing season.

However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a lawn mower can be extremely dangerous if not operated properly. In 2010, more than 250,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries. Unfortunately, 40% of these injury cases were serious enough to require treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Furthermore, nearly 10,000 of those injured were children with mean age between 5 and 10 years. Each year, more than 600 children undergo amputations as the result of lawn mower-related injuries.

The majority of injuries sustained during use of motorized lawn mowers can be classified as one of the following four types of accidents:

• Contact with rotating blade -- Injury often occurs when the victim cleans the discharge chute of grass clippings or places a foot too close to the mower deck when performing some other maintenance when the engine is still running.

• Propelled objects -- Rocks, glass or wire are picked up by the blades and hurled at speeds above 170 mph. Objects may be thrown for distances up to 50 feet or more causing death and injuries ranging from blindness to severe bruising.

• Overturning -- This occurs primarily when riding mowers are used on steep slopes or embankments. Victims may be pinned under the mower or come in direct contact with the rotating blade.

• Riding mowers running over the victim -- Accidents occur if the operator fails to check behind him when backing a riding mower. Playing children are often seriously injured. Also, an operator can accidentally pull the power mower backward over his or her own foot.

What can be done to prevent lawn mower accidents? The following practices will prevent most accidents:

• Read the entire operator's manual -- Read the instructions and then follow these instructions carefully. The manual explains safety procedures that should be followed.

• Check your lawn before mowing -- Clear the lawn of sticks, stones, toys, bones and other objects.

• Check guards and shields -- Make sure all protective devices are attached and in place before starting the mower. Shields and guards are designed specifically for your protection.

• Dress properly to do the job safely -- Always wear sturdy shoes; steel-toed safety shoes are preferred.

•Handle gasoline with care -- Do not fill the gasoline tank while the engine is running. Turn the mower off, and let it cool first. Fill the tank outdoors, and make sure to wipe up all fuel spills.

• Keep all persons and pets away from mowing area -- Remember, a mower blade can pick up and throw objects with a force sufficient to seriously injure or kill.

• No riders on riding mowers -- Always say "no" to small children asking to ride the mower with you. Extra riders can be thrown from the mower and run over. Extra riders also distract the operator, increasing the possibility for mistakes.

• Do not use riding mowers on steep slopes -- Mower overturns cause serious injury. Drive up and down slopes when operating a riding mower. Mow across the slope when using a walk-behind mower.

• Take care of your mower -- The operator-presence switch should stop the mower immediately when you release the control. Clean and safety-check your mower during the mowing season. If you have any doubt on how to adjust or repair your mower or sharpen your mower blade, see an expert. An annual inspection by an experienced service person is always a good idea.

Before starting your mower, make sure the lawn is dry and pick up rocks, wire, toys, dog bones, and anything else that the mower might pick up and throw. Also, make sure you adjust your cutting height if necessary. While you mow, avoid backing up unless it is necessary and turn off the mower before walking away from it. If using an electric mower, make sure the cord is always in "like-new" condition and make sure it stays clear of your mowing path.

Safety practices are just common sense, but we often need reminders. It is always good to take a few minutes periodically to review safety suggestions. For more information, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841, email Alex at [email protected], or visit our website at http://www.uaex.edu. The Garland County Extension Office is located at 236 Woodbine in Hot Springs and the office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Master Gardener information

Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month online. The meetings are open to the public, and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]

EHC information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane at [email protected] Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.

4-H information

For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension office, call 501-623-6841, or email [email protected] Additional information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.

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