Lawn Mowing Safety

Step outside on any bright summer day, and you’ll probably hear the buzz of lawnmowers.

Lawn mowing is a necessary chore for most homeowners. It can be great exercise, but use care. Lawnmowers can cause cuts, burns, fractures, amputations and even death.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 274,000 lawnmower-related injuries in 2015. Thirteen thousand of those injured were children and adolescents younger than 19 years old.

Even lawn-care professionals can be injured or killed in lawn mowing accidents. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reported 21 mowing accidents, including drownings, fatal rollovers and amputations, from September 2015 through September 2016.

Whether you ride a lawnmower or push one, keep these safety tips in mind this season.

  1. Don’t let your lawnmower become a high-powered weapon. Check your lawn before you start your mower. Walk around your yard. Pick up rocks, toys, sticks or other objects that can be thrown by the blades. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reminds us that lawnmower blades can shoot objects through the grass chute at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. That’s fast enough to cause serious injuries, break windshields and windows.
  2. Don’t mow wet grass. Mowing damp or wet grass can cause the grass to jam the blades and grass catcher.
  3. Never use your hands to disentangle wet grass or other materials from around the blade or grass catcher. Use a broom handle, stick or a similar object to remove the debris. Always make sure your mower has no power. (See point #4.)
  4. Never work on the blades while the mower’s spark plug is engaged. Disconnect the spark plug before you work on the blades. According to bumping a piston positioned at the top of the compression stroke can force the piston into the power stroke. This action causes the blade to move, which could cause serious injury to your hand. If you use an electric or battery-powered mower, always unplug the mower or remove the battery before working on the blades.

  5. Wear shoes with toes and tread. Wearing sandals, flip-flops or tennis shoes while mowing could be hazardous to your feet. Shoes with tread provide stability when walking over uneven terrain or freshly mowed grass. Shoes with a toe-box also protect your toes from flying debris and burns.
  6. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Pushing and tugging on a lawnmower handle can cause painful blisters and calluses. Gloves also protect your hands when pulling weeds or picking up other debris.
  7. Put on long pants to protect your legs. Lawnmowers can kick up small stones and other sharp objects hidden in the grass. Wearing long pants can protect your legs from cuts, scrapes and bruises. 
  1. Protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from flying objects and the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Protect your ears. Lawnmowers are loud. According to Purdue University, a power mower produces 96 decibels (dB) of noise. Prolonged exposure to sounds higher than 85 dBs can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
  3. Be aware of others, especially children. When you’re mowing, be aware of the people around you. If a person approaches the mower, shut it off or stop the blades until the person passes.
  4. When mowing with an electric mower, mow the area closest to the outlet first. Mowing away from the power source will help you avoid running over the cord.
  5. Use care when mowing hills. If you have hills in your yard, remember to mow from side-to-side when using a push mower. Pushing a mower up and down a hill increases your risk of slipping and catching your feet under the mower deck.

    If you use a riding mower, cut up and down the hill. Riding a mower across the side of the hill may cause the mower to tip and rollover on you.

  1. Mow forward. Not only can mowing backward interfere with the performance of the mower, but it can also increase the likelihood of injuries to the mower operator and others. It’s always the best to mow forward.
  2. Mowing the lawn is not a chore for young children. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that children be at least 12 years old before they mow the lawn. Adults should supervise the child until he or she knows and follows the safety rules.
  1. Never leave a running mower unattended.

  2. Shut the lawnmower off before filling up the gas tank. Pouring gasoline on an idling engine may cause a dangerous and explosive fire.

Mowing the yard is a productive way to work exercise into your week. Following a few common-sense safety tips can help you prevent most lawn-mowing injuries.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reminds us that lawnmower blades transfer a great deal of energy to objects. Hitting your hand with a moving blade is equivalent to “being shot with a .357 Magnum pistol” while indirect injuries caused by objects thrown at high speed can carry dirt and bacteria deep into the body increasing the risk of severe infection.

If you do experience a lawn-mowing injury, seek medical attention at the emergency room or a walk-in care clinic.