Prevent lawn mower tragedy

An 18-month-old from Camas, Ore., near Portland lost a leg in an accident with a riding lawnmower driven by the toddler’s grandfather.

The Clark County sheriff’s office says the man was backing the mower earlier this year when he hit the child on the left leg. The child was airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

In Tampa, Fla., another toddler’s feet had to be amputated after her father accidentally backed over her with a riding lawnmower on April 11.

The 2-year-old’s father was driving a riding mower up the driveway of their Palm Harbor home when the girl ran out from a backyard enclosure and got behind him. The man’s wife motioned for him to stop but he misinterpreted her signals and backed the mower up, running over the toddler.

The little girl underwent seven surgeries and will be fitted for prosthetic feet in the coming weeks.

Do we need to say it? Children and lawn mowers don’t mix.

The recent rains, mixed with extended daylight hours, means the grass is growing faster than ever.

Caution must be used, however.

The power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home. Each year, some 75,000 people are treated in emergency departments because of injuries caused by power mowers.

More than 10,000 of those hurt are younger than 18 years.

Older children and adolescents are 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.

In light of these statistics, safety experts recommend that children under 12 should not operate walk-behind power or hand mowers, and children under 16 should not use riding mowers.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, one in every five deaths caused by a lawn mower involves a child.

And only a small percentage of the lawn mower injuries are caused by mechanical failure. Most are the result of human error.

Safety experts estimate that most of the deaths to children occur when a child falls off a riding mower and is run over, or when a child is in the path of a moving mower.

Many of these unfortunate situations could have been avoided or their impact reduced dramatically if the safety procedures were followed.

Safety experts offer the following tips for safe lawn mower operation:

– Read the owner’s manual and know how to operate the equipment.

– Don’t cut grass when it is wet.

– Don’t allow passengers on a riding mower.

– Keep children out of the yard and indoors while you’re mowing the lawn.

– It is recommended that children under the age of 14 not be allowed to operate a lawn mower.

– Check your lawn for items such as sticks, rocks, toys or hand tools. Make sure nothing is hidden in the grass.

– Handle fuel with care. Always wipe up fuel spills as soon as they occur.

– Never fill the fuel tank on a mower while it is still hot.

– Never smoke or use any kind of flame around gasoline.

– Wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, eye protection and heavy gloves. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes with slip-resistant rubber soles.

– Don’t remove or disable guards, shields or any other safety devices.

– Use a lawn mower equipped with an automatic blade cut-off. Stay behind the handle until the blade stops. Never reach under a mower while it is still operating.

– Never leave a mower running while unattended. A mower left running unattended can be fascinating to a child. If the mower has an electric start, the key should never be left in the ignition.

– If you need to remove debris to check the blade, disconnect the wire from the spark plug.

– Always start the mower outdoors. Never operate a mower where carbon monoxide can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.

– Children should not operate lawn mowers until they have displayed appropriate levels of judgment, strength, coordination and maturity necessary for their safe operation, safety experts say.