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I just concluded settlement of a case in which a child had his legs run over by a riding lawn mower operated by a teenage neighbor. The substantial compensation will certainly help the child move ahead in life, but like most accidents this one was preventable and should never have occurred.

The power lawn mower is a dangerous machine. Each year there are thousands of lawn mower injuries requiring emergency room treatment.

Many of the victims are children hurt while operating the mowers, or because they inadvertently come into contact with mowers operated by others or are struck by items propelled by the mower blades while playing nearby.

Lawn mower accidents frequently involve serious injuries: amputations of arms, legs, feet, fingers or toes, caused by contact with cutting blades, as well as eye and other injuries caused by flying debris kicked up by the rotating blades as they move through the lawn.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following lawn mower safety tips:

  • 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.

Briggs & Stratton, a mower engine manufacturer, offers these tips regarding the dangers of handling gasoline:

Handling Gasoline

· Never smoke when filling the gas tank.

· Store gasoline in a container with a UL, FM, or CSA label. The Briggs & Stratton Smart Fill Fuel™ Can meets these requirements.

· Never keep gasoline in the house or fill gas tank indoors.

· Never store the machine or fuel container where there is an open flame, spark, or pilot light such as near a water heater or other appliances.

· Never fill containers inside a vehicle or on a truck bed with a plastic bed liner. Always place containers on the ground away from your vehicle before filling.

· Wipe up gasoline spills immediately and do not attempt to start the engine but move the machine away from the area of spillage and avoid creating any source of ignition until fuel vapors have dissipated.

· Never over-fill the fuel tank. Replace gas cap and tighten securely.

· Never remove the gas cap or add fuel with the engine running. Allow the engine to cool, before refueling.

There is no substitute reading equipment instruction manuals, supervising the use of equipment by younger operators, and using common sense. Let’s have a safe season in our yards.

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