Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Health Care and Lawnmower Safety

Americans in force are mowing this season--cutting grass like crazy, some daily and some weekly. And once in a while, someone will get cited by their municipality because they have refused to harvest their crop. Regardless of the size of the yard, cutting grass is a task that falls to everyone that has more than a few blades of San Augustine, Bermuda, or countless other grasses and weeds. A fear by many is suffering injury by a variety of means including accidents, ignorance, and natural means.

According to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), a lawn mower definitely has the potential to become an extremely dangerous instrument when it's used carelessly or without the proper safety precautions. Lawn mower injuries can be devastating to the patients and their families, so it's important to never take lawn mower safety for granted. The vast majority of lawn mower injuries are preventable. Riding lawn mowers cause some of the most serious injuries for both adults and children. Adults often allow young children to ride on their lap while they cut the lawn, which is never a good idea. With young passengers riding aboard the mowers, there is always the potential that they could fall off the machine while it's running. This type of occurrence can result in the child's hands, feet or entire body being run over by the mower, often resulting in limb amputation or a life-long debilitation injury.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home. Each year, approximately 68,000 persons with injuries caused by power mowers were treated in emergency departments. More than 9,000 of the people hurt were younger than 18 years. Older children and adolescents were most often hurt while cutting lawns as chores or as a way to earn money. Lawn mower injuries include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones, burns, and eye and other injuries. Some injuries are very serious. Both users of mowers and those who are nearby can be hurt. To prevent lawn mower injuries to children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
--Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
--Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers. Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
--Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
--Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
--Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area that you plan to mow.
--Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
--Make sure that blade settings (to set the wheel height or dislodge debris) are done by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug removed or disconnected.
--Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
--Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
--Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.

But with a little extra lawn mower caution and safety, many of the serious and even life-threatening injuries often caused by lawn mowers can be prevented, according to the UMHS. In addition, any time adults are using lawn mowers, they should make sure to keep children out of the yard and in a well-supervised area to avoid injury. Nearly 10,000 children in America are injured each year as the result of a lawn mower accident. Adults, too, need to use extra caution while operating a riding mower to protect themselves from personal injury. Riding mowers have the potential to tip over onto the driver when going up slopes, often resulting in serious injury to the hands and feet. Also, with both riding mower and traditional power mowers, it's important to make sure the yard is free of loose objects, like sticks or rocks, that can project out of the mower during use and cause injury to the face or eyes.

According to the UMHS, any clutter left laying around the yard can fly up into the engine and be projected out the side, almost like a missile, and it can cause serious injury to a person. Personal protective equipment is also a must for anyone cutting the lawn. To prevent injury, everyone who operates a lawn mower wear pants, steel-toed boots and goggles. Loose or scanty clothing could potentially put you at risk for becoming burned by the machine or injured by projectiles. One should wear relatively close-fitting clothing and non-skid, strong footwear like hiking boots that could provide some safety if a blade should come too close to the foot. Some form of hearing protection, since lawn mowers, at an average of 95 decibels, are extremely loud. However, they caution lawn mower operators against using portable music players, which may distract the operator from other potential dangers. And with more than 22 percent of lawn mower injuries involving the hands, fingers or wrist, it's important to always make sure the engine is off and the mower blade has completely stopped rotating and remove the spark plug before attempting to remove debris from the mower or make adjustments. Even when the mower's turned off, the blade is still turning and there's still the risk for a severe injury. And even if there are times when you just want to adjust the height of the mower's wheels, you should pull out the spark plug to ensure that there's no way for the lawn mower to turn on. Lawn mower operators should also use extra caution when fueling the machine. Improper fueling can result in burns or explosions, which could cause the loss of an eye, limb, skin or prove fatal. In all cases, lawn mower owners are strongly encouraged to read their owner's manuals for proper safety operating instructions.

For more safety tips, visit this website: http://www.briggsandstratton.com/corp/safety_use/lawn_mower.aspx . Remember to use common sense when mowing. That will go a long way to prevent injuries and more severe issues when using lawn mowers. Always consider your safety and for those near you, as well as property concerns from using lawn mowers of any type. Although a well cut yard is beautiful, it is not worth putting your health, life, or anything else at risk.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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