An average of 13 children are treated at hospital emergency rooms every day for lawn mower-related injuries, according to new research that highlights risks associated with the machines.
In a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children’s Hospital highlight the dangers that can result from leaving children unattended to do daily lawn mowing chores, which results in injury more often than most parents realize.
Lead study author and the center’s director, Dr. Gary Smith and his team of researchers collected data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), conducting an analysis of data recorded from 1990 through 2014 for reported lawn-mower related injuries. They found 212,258 children under the age of 18 were treated in US emergency rooms for various degrees of injury stemming from push and riding mowers.
Lacerations to the hands or fingers accounted for the largest percentage of injuries, at 38.5%. That was followed by 21.2% of injuries involving someone being struck by a mower. Individuals cut by a mower accounted for 19.9% of injuries and 14.1% were treated for burns after coming into contact with a hot surface.
Although most lawn mower injury emergency room treatments were not serious, more than eight percent required admission for extended hospitalization.
Projectiles were associated with 49.8% of all injuries to children who were injured by a lawn mower as a bystander. The research suggests that passengers and bystanders were more likely to be treated in emergency rooms than the operator themselves, due to the risk of backing over, being hit by projectile, or falling off of the lawn mower.
The way in which children of different ages were injured varied, with patients under the age of five being more likely to suffer injuries stemming from hot surfaces, back-over incidents, or as a bystanders or passengers. Children between the ages of five and seventeen were found to be more likely than younger children to be struck by or cut by the lawn mower.
Despite the large number of injury reports collected through NEISS, researchers noticed a 59.9% decrease in injury rates from 1990 to 2014, indicating newer safety features on lawn mowers and safety awareness have improved consumers well-being.
Smith called on the lawn mower manufacturing industry to continue improve automatic safety measures that would prevent injury, such as using larger mower shields to prevent hands and feet from getting under the mower, as well as preventing projectiles. He also called for equipping with a “no-mow-in-reverse mechanism” to prevent back-over injuries, with the over-ride switch for this feature to be located behind the seat to force the driver to look behind him before backing up and engaging the blade.
While safety measures from the lawn mower industry can be improved, experts say accidents can also be prevented by parents and caregivers teaching children how to properly use the equipment, picking up yard debris before mowing, not letting children under 16 drive riding lawn mowers, and by fully turning the mower off and waiting for the blades to stop before performing any maintenance or routine cleanings.