(WFXR) — As the weather gets warmer, more people are heading outside to tend to their yards.
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, it’s estimated that more than 37,000 Americans suffer a power mower-related injury each year, resulting in about 90 deaths.
Andy Seibel, an associate extension specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech, said lawn mowers are “one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment that are out there.”
Lawnmower injuries “are frequent occurrences throughout the spring and summer months,” says Dr. Eric Kramer, a Rockingham County emergency room physician.
“The more common are wounds to fingers and hands as the direct result of people attempting to hand-clear debris from lawn mower grass chutes while the engine is running and the cutting deck is still engaged,” Kramer said.
Kramer says mowing accidents tend to result in two categories of injury—lacerations and amputations, or blunt trauma. Blunt-trauma injuries occur when mowers and tractors turn over while the rider is moving along a steep grade, pinning them to the ground.
Passengers can also be at risk, as well. An estimated 9,400 children are injured by lawn mowers every year in the U.S., especially in rural areas, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Lawnmowers are responsible for 12% to 19% of traumatic amputations among kids.
“Lawnmowers are powerful and potentially dangerous machines that are designed for one operator. Adding an additional child rider makes it harder for the operator to control the machine and could lead to the child falling off and being seriously injured.”Dana Fisher, chairman of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Safety Advisory Committee
Operators are urged to familiarize themselves with their surroundings in order to safely use a mower. They should also understand the piece of equipment that is being used.
“If it’s a zero-turn [mower], don’t worry about mowing at first,” Logan Horne, a turf management teacher at Louisa County High School, recommends. “Get it in an open area, and just drive it around. Get comfortable with turning it, backing up, spinning and all those kinds of things.”
Once you are familiar with the mower, it’s important to survey the area for debris, sticks, rocks or trash.
“The mower can shoot out material at over 200 miles an hour,” Horne said. “So a rock coming out of there could hit someone 100 yards away and still hurt them.”
Horne recommends operators take their time when mowing and avoid mowing wet grass.