A new study highlights the importance of practicing lawn mower safety around kids this summer. We've got five tips for keeping them safe.

Man Using Lawn Mower
Credit: Loban Alex/Shutterstock

Would you believe lawn mowers send an average of 13 kids to the emergency room every day? That's the scary statistic from a new report out of Nationwide Children's Hospital.

The good news? Overall, lawn mower-related accidents involving kids are decreasing. But 4,800 children are still hurt by lawn mowers each year, according to the recent study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

"Lawn mower injuries are so prevalent because they are often unexpected," Greg Gaski, MD, orthopedic trauma surgeon at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, Indiana, tells Parents.com. "Lawn mowing is a routine chore where the perils are often unanticipated. The accidents can happen instantaneously, and there is very little time for the lawn mower operator to react. Awareness is critical."

Researchers say cuts are the most common injuries, while burns are also a concern. Little hands and fingers are the most commonly injured body parts, followed by the legs, feet, and toes.

Dr. Gaski has seen injuries with a range of severity. "The severity of injury can range from simple lacerations to traumatic amputations necessitating multiple surgeries to prevent infection," he says. "These injuries can also be life-threatening. Lawn mower accident injuries often require multiple surgeries to prevent infection, achieve bone healing and wound coverage. They frequently require several reconstructive surgeries in the ensuing months and years to optimize function."

Riley Children’s Health recently treated two patients who are recovering from severe lawn mower injuries—a 5-year-old girl who lost the lower part of one leg and a 3.5-year-old boy whose feet are being held together by pins and rods. And both families believed it couldn't happen to their L.O.s.

Luckily, most kids are treated and released after a lawn mower injury, but more than 8 percent were serious enough to be admitted to the hospital, the study finds.

I'll admit I had no idea lawn mowers could be so dangerous for kids! My hubby just kind of takes care of our lawn, and I don't get involved. But the report finds that bystanders and passengers are almost four times more likely than operators (aka parents) to be admitted to the hospital.

The research also notes that how a child is injured by a lawn mower depends largely on his or her age. Kiddos younger than 5 are more likely to get burned touching a hot surface of the appliance, or from a "back-over" injury. Kids older than 5 are more likely to be struck by, or cut by the lawn mower or a projectile.

Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, senior author of the AJEM study, said in a press release, "Improvements in lawn mower design during the last few decades are likely an important contributing factor in the decrease in injuries. We would like to see manufacturers continue to improve design and include additional needed safety features on all mowers."

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind to prevent lawn mower injuries:

  • Kids should be at least 12 years old to operate a push mower, and at least 16 before operating a ride-on mower. An adult should supervise teens before they are allowed to operate a lawn mower on their own.
  • Kids should never be passengers on ride-on mowers. It's a good idea to keep kids younger than 6 indoors while mowing. Of course, never allow kids to play on, or near a lawn mower, even when it is not in use.
  • Before mowing, pick up stones, sticks, or other objects in the grass. According to the research, objects thrown by a lawn mower can cause severe eye and other injuries. Adults and teens should put on protective eye wear and sturdy shoes to mow.
  • Use mowers with safety controls; a push mower should feature a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Always mow in a forward direction. Look behind you if you ever need to back up.
  • Wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads.

Check out other common summer safety hazards here.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.