Home Horrors: Child Loses Feet in Lawn Mower Accident in Her Yard
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on May 9th, 2012
In just an instant, a five-year-old Maryland girl lost both of her feet when she walked up behind her father as he mowed the grass with his ride-on lawn tractor in their yard.
The horrific accident is a stark reminder of the need for safety around lawn maintenance equipment, especially with spring yard work firmly underway in communities across our nation.
The accident occurred in Forest Hill, Maryland, when the girl’s father didn’t see her behind him as he placed the lawn tractor into reverse, according to a story in The Baltimore Sun. Both of her feet were severed by the blades of the tractor, according to emergency officials. “The girl was flown to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center where her feet could not be saved,” the story reported.
According to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, “lawn mower injuries are the leading cause of amputations in adolescents,” the story reported. “Such accidents send 9,400 U.S. children to the hospital each year. Most commonly they have cuts, fractures and amputations to the hands, feet and legs. About 95 percent of those treated at Hopkins between 2000 and 2005 were amputations that required reattachment or reconstructive surgery.”
Such accidents take an emotional toll on families as well when children are accidentally injured while performing such mundane chores.
According to the Web site HealthyChildren.org, power lawn mowers are one of the most dangerous tools around the home. They injure about 68,000 persons annually, including 9,000 children under 18. “Older children and adolescents were most often hurt while cutting lawns as chores or as a way to earn money,” the group stated. “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.”
To prevent such injuries and keep our children out of harm’s way, there are some important safety tips to follow when using power equipment for yard work and lawn maintenance, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area that you plan to mow.
- 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.
- Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.
- 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.
Lawn mowers are very powerful tools which account for a large percentage of accidental partial or complete amputations just by their nature, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “The energy transferred by a typical lawn mower blade is equivalent to being shot in the hand with a .357 Magnum pistol,” states an article on the group’s Web site. “The speed of the blade can send dirt and bacteria deep into a wound, creating a high risk for severe infection. In addition, a lawn mower can eject a piece of metal or wood up to 100 miles per hour.”
To keep children safe around such machines, the group recommends:
- Teaching children to stay away from all running lawn mowers.
- Children should not be allowed to play in or near where a lawn mower is being used.
- Never allow a child or another passenger to ride on a mower, even with parents. Doctors commonly see children with severe injuries to their feet caused by riding on the back of a rider mower with a parent or grandparent.
Keeping our children safe is critical to all of us. Accidents do happen but it is up to us all to always keep in mind that dangers can always lurk when we are using dangerous and powerful equipment such as lawn mowers and other power equipment around the house and yard.
Remember to follow all safety rules and recommendations as you operate such equipment and always remember to be sure that small children are not nearby when you are mowing or operating other machinery.
Let’s keep this spring, summer and fall safe for us all when we are working in the yard.
Our sympathies go out to the young Maryland youngster who was severely injured by a lawn mower and we send our thoughts and prayers to her and her family as she recovers from her injuries.
We hope that we all learn from her experience and help prevent similar tragedies elsewhere.