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Cowden column Make lawn mower safety a priority this summer

As summer quickly approaches, many families will spend time beautifying their lawns.
While lawn mowers are a much-needed tool, they can pose a serious threat to children. Each year, hospitals see the results of injuries caused by power mowers. Many of these incidents result in the loss of fingers, toes, limbs and eyes. Some mower accidents even result in death.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, one of every five deaths caused by lawn mowers involves a child. Most of these deaths occur when the child falls off of, or is run over by, a riding mower. These tragedies often involve toddlers and young children under the age of five.
One of the biggest risks is allowing passengers on a riding mower. It is very difficult to control a riding mower with an arm around a child. A parent, grandparent, sibling or friend may feel they are providing a child a joyous experience by letting them ride ódon’t do it.
Never allow passengers. Riding mowers are designed for one operator only.
Don’t allow children under the age of 14 to operate a lawn mower. Some children are unable to reach the pedals of riding mowers and the safety shutoff mounted to the seat will engage if they rise from the seat. Push mowers are also dangerous for young children to use, as they lack the size to properly control it.
Keep children and pets out of the yard while mowing the lawn. Mowers can cause stones, wire and other objects to be projectiles when struck. Check your lawn for items such as sticks, rocks or toys that may be hidden in the grass.
If children or pets enter the area being mowed, immediately turn the mower off. Be alert by looking behind and down for small children or pets before operation, especially when going in reverse. Use extra caution when approaching corners, shrubs and trees.
The mower operator should wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, eye protection, gloves and sturdy closed-toed shoes with slip-resistant rubber soles. Sandals or bare feet offer no protection to a mower’s blade.
Don’t remove or disable guards or other safety devices. Never reach under a mower while it is still operating ó this includes reaching from the seat of a riding mower to pick-up a stick or other obstacle. When working with older mowers, remove the wire from the spark plug before working under the mower deck.
When filling a mower with fuel, handle it carefully. Wipe up any spills and never fill the tank when it is hot. Never smoke or use any kind of flame around gasoline.
When using a riding mower in areas where the lawn has steep slopes, mow up and down rather than across the slope. Also, don’t cut grass while it is wet. Grass that is wet can cause riding mower tire slips and feet to slip under push mowers. The grass cuts nicer when it is dry, too.
Lastly, keep the mower well maintained and the cutting blades sharp.
By following a few safety precautions, the lawn mowing season can be enjoyable and injury free.

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