New Report on the Dangers of Operating Riding Lawnmowers

Source: Photo by Ingo Doerrie on Unsplash

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), from 2008 to 2010, there were an estimated 35,000 consumer injuries related to riding lawnmowers that were treated in emergency departments in the US.

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.

According to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, the following riding lawnmower deaths occurred in the state in 2019:

  • A 21-year-old, working as a seasonal employee for a landscaping company, was operating a zero-turn lawnmower on a hill near an apartment complex. The mower began to roll and pinned the employee underneath. The victim died instantly due to massive blunt force trauma to the head and neck;
  • A 46-year-old full-time landscaping worker was mowing a hill near a pond located at a private residence. Witnesses state that the employee lost control of the lawnmower and it entered the pond, trapping him underneath the water. Good Samaritans entered the pond, pulled the mower off the victim, and began administering CPR, but the victim died due to compressional asphyxiation; and
  • An 83-year-old farmer was mowing his property when he attempted to mow a hill leading to a pond. The victim lost control of the 14-horsepower mower he was operating, and it rolled into the pond, ejecting the farmer into the water. He was pronounced dead at the scene due to drowning.

The following are recommendations for the safe operation of riding lawnmowers:

  • Do not use riding lawnmowers on slopes greater than 15 degrees. For slopes less than 15 degrees, mow up and down the slope, never across. Turn around on level ground located at the top or bottom of the slope.
  • If a riding lawnmower is equipped with a roll-over protective structure (ROPS), ensure that it is in the raised position whenever the mower is in use. If the mower does not have a ROPS, contact the manufacturer to inquire about available retrofit kits. Ensure mowers with ROPS are also equipped with a seatbelt.
  • Wait for the blades to come to a complete stop before removing clogged grass, adjusting the blade settings, or crossing a gravel road.
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection. A normal riding lawnmower produces sound levels of 90 decibels.

The Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program is an occupational fatality prevention and surveillance program of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky is one of seven FACE states currently funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The Kentucky FACE program has conducted surveillance of all occupational fatalities since 1994.