Thursday, June 07, 2001

Mow? No!

Well, here's another thing to add to your list of summer safety no-no's for kids: using the lawnmower.
Now, at first I expected that maybe this safety tip was being put out by, say, the Tom Sawyer Institute for Juvenile Work Avoidance. But in fact, it's the American Academy of Pediatrics doing the suggesting, and there are legitimate safety issues involved. Apparently, nearly 10,000 kids are injured by lawnmowers each year, and that's not even counting the ones whose allergies are too severe to be around all that flying grass. Hey, that's my excuse, anyway.

The key seems to be to wait until the child has shown the necessary judgment and strength to push a potentially dangerous instrument. You would not, for example, put your four-year-old in charge of a whirling blade. Yet a quarter of the annual lawnmower victims are under five. The AAP advises keeping the wee ones inside while the mowing is in process. And of course, mamas need to stay inside with them.

In addition to the AAP warning, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute has some safety tips of its own. To quote from the official site:

* Do read the manufacturers operator's manual before operating.

* Do use extra care when approaching corners, shrubs, and trees.

* Do handle fuel carefully and avoid spilling when you're filling.

* Do wear the proper clothing -- long slacks and sturdy shoes.

* Don't drive a riding mower like a race car -- it's a mower, not a racer.

* Do keep small children out of the mowing area, and preferably indoors under adult supervision.

* Do be alert and turn the mower off if children enter the area.

* Do, before operating in reverse, look behind and down for small children.

* Don't carry children. Riding mowers are designed for one operator only.

* Don't allow children to operate a riding mower.

Of course, any suggestion that kids shouldn't be mowing is a major disappointment, because one of the chief advantages of having children in the first place is having someone to do things like mow the lawn. I would like to report that the American Academy of Pediatrics, in the interest of child safety, offers a lawn-care service by which a pediatrician mows your lawn while you lie in your air-conditioned house watching videos with your children, but alas, they just give the advice, they don't help you follow it. And beside, I'm guessing the HMOs would never pay for it.

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