Child Proofing Your Lawn Care Equipment

Its a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you’re installing a brand new seat on the old loo (as the red coats call it) when suddenly little Junior shows up smiling.

“What cha doin?” He grins, twirling his favorite toy.

“I’m putting a new seat on the potty.” You reply with a grunt.

“Can I do it?”

“You do know Daddy’s got his hand where everyone goes stinky, right?”

“Eww. Can I do it?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeeeaaaaah.”

“Ooookaaay…”

(Thirty seconds later, a G.I. Joe lies discarded on the floor as little Junior strolls out the door.)

“Hey! Where are you going? (chuckling)”

“I’m firsty.”

Selective Covetation: the phenomenon wherein one observes and is compelled to engage in; any given activity until the activity in question is finally experienced; resulting in one quickly deciding that the activity in question sucks big time and one doesn’t want to do it any more.

Scrubbing the trash bins, trimming Grandma’s toe nails, de-worming the cat… it doesn’t matter what it is; Little Junior and/or Little Miss will want to be right in the mix. Bless their hearts, it’s flattering. And as parents; we never want to pass up a teachable moment so we give them the broom, they try for a bit, we smile and that’s good enough for now

And, of course the same applies for lawn care. Junior sees the mower, he sees the trimmer, he sees the edger but mostly he sees you swinging that snarling beast around and he wants to do it too. It’s cute. I get it. But lest we forget, these aren’t toys, are they?

They’re power equipment. And just because they’re orange and red and green and yellow and shiny and plastic like every toy the little buggers have in their toy box, it doesn’t mean they are easy to use or safe to operate unattended. So, cute as it might be to watch him or her stagger around while the leaf blower knocks over the trash can and sends the cat for the hills; it’s time to be a parent.

Let’s start with some sobering facts…

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission: 

  • More than… 17,000 children in the U.S. were injured by lawn mowers in 2010. These injuries included cuts, burns, broken bones (Fractures), and amputations.
  • In 2011, 3,780 kids 14 or under were among 83,291 people treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for lawn mower injuries
  • Riding lawn mowers cause more injuries each year than push mowers, because they can tip and even roll over, placing a child at risk of being run over and severely injured.

Penn State News: The Medical Minute: Preventing lawn mower injuries in children
June 18, 2014

Real Talk

Personally, I think we tend to take for granted the ease in which we operate our equipment without fear of accident or injury. We have this bad habit of believing that the longer the sea remains calm the chances of a hull shattering storm somehow decreases.

The law of probability is one of the only laws that won’t stand up in court, and when the finger hits the fan, you could find yourself in the hot seat if the justification you had for leaving the shed unlocked and allowing Little Junior access to the power equipment is “Gosh! He’s never done that before”.

The ingredients for a proper disaster

“He uses it all the time. He knows what he’s doing.”

Maybe so. But is that really going to matter when he hurts himself? Complacency: Allowing dangerous things to be seen as routine is the first ingredient in a disaster.

Remember when Junior wanted to learn how to shave? You lathered up his little face, handed him a blade-less razor and you stood there watching him to make sure he was ok. But when Junior wants to learn to shave the lawn, you put him in charge of a 21 inch steel scythe spinning 3000 revolutions per minute?

Am I missing something?

“I’ve got my eye on him. I’m watching him.”

Welcome to Earth, strange visitor. Very few of us mortals posses the gift of super human speed. So when your child is about to lacerate his little shin with the weed trimmer (which is loaded with mega-whack .150 gauge titanium core trimmer line, “cuz I’ll be damned if them weeds is gonna stand up to me”) you’ll sweep in and snatch it away before he can do any damage.

You’re good. I’ll give you that.

However, for those of us who didn’t come from Krypton, we’re just not going to get there in time to stop Little Miss’ fingers from creeping up under the mower deck to pick that dandelion she doesn’t want to kill. And when the smoke clears and the finger wagging begins, the fingers are all going to waggle on you; except for Little Miss’.

And for good reason.

Of course, you didn’t see it coming. But you should have.

I’m talking to the guy who’s shaking his head right now in indignation, muttering “My kid ain’t stupid.” or “I ain’t stupid.” or “I ain’t stupid as my kid.” Dismissing a known risk is the second ingredient for a disaster. Some folks call that “poor judgement”. Some folks call it an “oversight”. Most call it “negligence”.).

How about this scenario- The grass is long, the sun is high and Junior or Little Miss want to surprise you with taking care of the lawn. Bless their hearts. Cute.

“Hold on now. My boy would never try to use the mower by himself! I have told him. He knows better.”

Look back at the most recent time that your child did anything against your wishes, when they should have known better. I bet the choices are frequent and the most recent time was probably right before bed time last night.

And your defense is “He would never?” Really? Why not?

I mean, after all “He uses it all the time.” Right? “He knows what he’s doing.”. Right? I’m sure he knows that you have your eye on him. That you’re watching him.  So, in his little mind he can handle it.

There is a reason they print “For external use only” on Bandages. Because someone did something dumb, that defied explanation.

Look, “Accidents” by the very definition of the word happen unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury. If you are going to assume anything, assume an accident would happen when you least expected it, when it defies explanation as to how it happened when it did. You know what…strike that. Just don’t assume at all.

Assumption: The third and final ingredient. Nice cooking!

Common Sense is anything but.

“Lawn mower injuries to children are easily preventable,” says Keith Brandt, MD, president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), in a news release. “Children should remain inside the house or under direct supervision of another adult whenever a lawn mower is being used.”

By  WebMD Health News

 


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Orthopedic Society (That’s the guys you’re going to go see when Little Miss drops a hedge trimmer on her foot.):

  • “Children allowed to mow the lawn should be at least 12 years old if operating a push mower or at least 16 if using a ride-on mower. These ages are general guidelines for parents. Additionally, the child’s abilities and maturity level along with their size should be considered.
  • Children should never sit as passengers on ride-on mowers and, in general, children should not be in the yard when an adult is cutting the lawn.
  • “If a child runs out into the area where you’re cutting the lawn, turn off the lawn mower and clear the area before turning it on again,” he said.
  • Never allow children to play with or “pretend” with serviceable, active equipment.
  • Keep unattended equipment and power sources (batteries, electric starters, extension cords) secured at all times.
  • Teach your children how to use, maintain and store equipment properly. Model good safety practices by wearing eye protection, gloves and appropriate footwear and explaining how and why the are necessary.
  • Discuss fuel, oil, fertilizers, pesticides; chemicals of all kinds. Make sure they know how to store them and what to do when they spill.

When the machines come on, the kids leave the lawn.

For more information on how to keep your child safe during the lawn care season, visit these helpful sites:

JOHN DEERE

KUBOTA

POULAN

TORO

AG SAFETY

CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION

OPEI

Kids are cute. Let’s keep em that way.

-Bill

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Bill Brown

Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.