Every spring and summer, for the past 4 years, the requests for 3D printed e-NABLE devices by parents of children who have lost hands, arms and fingers to lawn mower accidents, increases. Despite expanded efforts to educate parents on the dangers of mowing the lawn while children are playing outside or having them ride on laps while mowers are actively engaged and running…every year, our inbox begins to fill with messages from parents who are desperately trying to find low cost replacement limbs for their children who suffered horrific accidents and ultimately have had their lives changed forever, in an instant.
The summer months bring emails from parents and recipients who share heart breaking stories of moments that started out with “a normal day of yard work” and watching the children play in the back yard on a beautiful sunny afternoon, to horrifying emergency room visits and decisions having to be made that no parent or grandparent should ever have to make and then carrying that guilt with them for the rest of their lives.
Each year, 800 children in the US alone, are run over by riding mowers or small tractors and more than 600 of those incidents result in amputation; 75 people are killed, and 20,000 injured; one in five deaths involves a child. For children under age 10, major limb loss is most commonly caused by lawn mowers.
Jillian Warden, a prosthetic/orthotic clinician at Cook Children’s hospital writes, “In my line of work as a prosthetic/orthotic clinician, amputations are an unfortunate fact of life for a small portion of the pediatric population. The saddest cases are those that are completely preventable, and these traumatic lawn mowing accidents are exactly that. If your child is lucky enough to avoid an amputation after a run in with a lawn mower, they are still going through a very scary and traumatic injury. And let’s not get started on what the driver of the lawn mower will have to contend with for the rest of his or her life.”
According to results presented at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in March, injuries were caused most often when children ran behind a mower; slipped under the mower while riding as a passenger; collided with mower blades when machines were steered in reverse; or were struck by a mower that rolled over due to an uneven and/or wet surface. In many cases, adults did not realize children were near the mower when injuries occurred.
The Amputee Coalition shares some important information and safety guidelines for mowing season:
1. First and foremost: Keep your children (and pets) indoors and do not allow children to play nearby when you are mowing. Besides the possibility of accidentally running over your child, there are risks for injury from projectiles like rocks, golf balls and small toys that can strike anyone nearby.
2. Never allow children to play on a lawn mower, even if it is turned off. They are curious creatures that could accidentally cut themselves on non moving blades, in an instant.
3. Never allow a child to ride on a riding mower with you. In a split second, children can lose their balance and tumble to the ground in the direct path of the mower blades. Lawn mower blades can spin at up to 19,000 feet per second…or 150-200 miles per hour and it is not how fast your lawn mower moves across the yard, but how fast those blades are spinning when they make contact with the human body.
BEFORE YOU MOW
1. Make sure all children and pets are indoors safely before you mow.
2. Pick up debris, toys and rocks from the lawn before you mow to prevent flying objects.
3. Wear shoes, not flip flops.
4. Use eye and hearing protection.
5. Only refuel the motor when it is turned off and cooled down.
WHILE YOU MOW
1. For push mowers: Only use mowers that have automatic shut-off abilities, such as those that stop all motion once the handle is released.
2. For riding lawn mowers: Make sure your mower includes an auto shut off when the rider is not in the seat.
3. Do not remove the grass catcher or unclog the discharge chute until the mower is completely shut off.
4. Make sure you and your children stay away from the exhaust. A lawn mower can reach temperatures of up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Anyone who is near this exhaust could suffer a severe burn.
5. Be careful of hills and sharp cornering. Accidents can happen when a mower tips over.
AFTER YOU MOW
1. Turn off the lawn mower completely and make sure to put it out of reach of children while it cools off.
Many of us all have wonderful and “fun” memories of “helping” mow the lawn as children, whether that memory involves feeling the wind in your face as you race across the yard from your perch on Grandpa’s lap as he pushes his old faithful riding mower to max speed or feeling that incredible sense of pride as we walk alongside a parent with our trusty bubble mower to “practice” for when we are grown ups too…but these moments of pure joy, can turn to memories of events that can haunt you for the remainder of your years.
Please stay safe this summer and help reduce the number of emails I will receive this year and every year after, from parents who “didn’t think it could happen to their child.”
The group of 12 families from 10 states who have experienced this tragedy first-hand came together to create this important PSA emphasizing lawn mower safety.
Please take a moment to watch.