According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 220,000 people—approximately 16,500 of them children under age 19—were treated in physicians’ offices, clinics, and emergency rooms for lawn-mower–related injuries in 2006. To help prevent injuries, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, ASPS, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have teamed up to educate parents, adults, and children about the importance of lawn-mower safety during National Safety Month in June.

“Having been in practice for almost 25 years, it never ceases to amaze me how our emergency rooms continue to see the devastating injuries that lawn mowers can cause,” says Lawrence Colen, MD, president of ASRM. “Most, if not all, of the injuries seen are preventable. Partial lower-limb amputations, facial and eye injuries, and mutilating hand trauma caused by these machines can change the lives of the afflicted forever.”

The medical societies urge their member physicians to publicize the following tips to help prevent lawn- mower–related injuries:

• Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old to use a ride-on mower.

• Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.

• Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing—not sandals.

• Young children should be at a safe distance from the area you are mowing.

• Before mowing, pick up stones, toys, and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.

• Always wear eye and hearing protection.

• Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.

• Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary—carefully look for others behind you when you do.

• Start and refuel mowers outdoors—not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.

• Blade settings should be adjusted only by an adult.

• Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads.

[ASPS, May 30, 2007]