Gardening: lawn mower safety

Paul Hambruch is a retired florist living in Golden, B.C.

I was ready to continue writing about the value of organic matter to improve your garden soil, when I saw something that shocked me so much it convinced me to write about a different subject.

What I saw were four or five children, ages probably three to six, playing on a very small front lawn. There is nothing unusual about that. What was shocking was to see a person, presumably the mother, right in amongst them, running a lawn mower mowing the very lawn the children were playing on. Obviously, this person was totally unaware of the dangers lawn mowers pose. Thinking that there may be more people who don’t realize how dangerous a weapon lawn mowers can be inspired me to write on that subject.

It is perhaps difficult to see such a common machine as dangerous but the fact is that in North America tens of thousands of severe injuries are caused by lawn mowers every year. Lawn mowers are the number one cause of amputations in children under ten years old.

Here is what one orthopaedic surgeon had to say: “I recently had a patient who lost part of his foot from a mower accident. It is devastating to see how much damage a mower blade can cause. After some research, I discovered exactly how much strength is behind that monster on wheels. Being hit by a mower blade is equivalent to being hit by a 21 pound object dropped from a height of 100 feet or a 1.2 pound object travelling at 232 miles per hours! This is three times the force of a 0,357 magnum gun!”

The blade tips on a 20” mower blade at full speed travel at 240km/h or 150 mph. Objects such as stones or a stray nail picked up and thrown out by the mower travel at almost the same speed. They can fly 100 feet or more and still do considerable damage. There are cases of children having been crippled for life or killed by objects thrown out by a lawn mower. When using a lawn mower, please observe the following rules:

Please follow these rules: Keep children and pets away from the area being mowed. Remember that a mower can easily throw objects 100 feet or more. Before mowing, pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects. Wear sturdy shoes, not sandals. Never mow barefoot. Refuel your mower when it is cold and never indoors. Remove the lead and from the spark plug and ground it to the engine block when working on the blade. Turning the blade could start your mower. Only use mowers with an automatic shutdown bar. Wait for blades to stop completely before removing grass catcher, unclogging the chute or crossing gravel paths or roads. Don’t allow children under twelve to use a lawn mower, under 16 for riding mowers. Be extra careful on slopes. People have slipped and fell and were run over by the mower, causing serious injuries or death.

Lawn mower accidents are totally avoidable as long as you use these machines safely. Have a nice, safe summer. You don’t want to have to say: ”If only I would have followed the rules”.