A lawn mower is one of the most ubiquitous machines.

Whether it’s a push or riding model, a mower has a motor that spins a blade rapidly. The machines can get extremely hot, and the blades can injure and even kill.

Clayton Miller, of Carthage, takes mower safety seriously. He runs Clayton’s Lawn Service, which mows 140 lawns in Missouri and Kansas throughout the summer.

Miller said he’s been mowing lawns professionally for eight years and that lawn mower safety is always the top priority.

“When cars are going by when you’re mowing, you always stop and shut the deck off,” Miller said. “We always walk through the yard, pick up trash and sticks, make sure nothing is in the yard before we mow. Of course, mower builders have made a bunch of little pull-down chute-blockers that you can put on your mowers to keep debris from shooting from under the mower. Safety is very important to us; it’s our No. 1 priority to take care of our guys and our customers.”

The statistics

Dr. Sarah Denny is a pediatrician and primary care physician in Columbus, Ohio, but for 12 years she was an emergency room physician and saw her share of tragedies involving lawn mowers.

“We know that there are more than 8,490 kids who are seen in emergency departments for lawn mower-related injuries across the country,” Denny said in a telephone interview. “That’s not counting the ones who have minor injures or maybe have a scare with a lawn mower and don’t seek emergency department care. That’s also not counting adults. We definitely see injuries, and the thing about lawn mower injuries is they can be so devastating, with significant amputations and even death.”

Denny sits on the board of directors of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and co-chairs its advocacy committee, and as such she loves to talk about children’s safety in numerous areas. Denny made a video discussing lawn mower safety on the American Academy of Pediatrics website, www.healthychildren.org. The site has a page dedicated to lawn mower safety, with basic tips for parents about when to let children mow the lawn and what precautions to take when mowing.

Not a toy

Denny said this is the time of year when mowing has become a routine, so people might be a little lax when preparing to mow the lawn.

“I think people don’t really think of lawn mowers as a potential source of serious injury or death, so I think right now it’s so timely,” Denny said. “We see a variety of different injuries related to lawn mowers. In the younger kids, the less-than-6 age group, the injuries are typically burns. They go up and touch a mower when it’s really hot, and they burn themselves. Bystanders can be injured if the lawn mower throws out some debris, a rock or something like that. Then the amputations can occur in multiple scenarios, but one that’s particularly scary — if one starts mowing backward, in reverse on a riding lawn mower or pulling the lawn mower back and not realizing there’s a child behind them.”

The site recommends that parents wait until children are at least 12 years old before allowing them to use a push mower and 16 before letting them use a riding lawn mower.

“Those are guidelines; it really depends on your child,” Denny said. “I have a 13-year-old boy who is impulsive and doesn’t pay attention to anything, and there is no way I would let him mow the lawn. But my 11-year-old is very responsible and very safety-conscious, so when he turns 12, I think he’d be totally fine mowing the lawn. These are meant to be general guidelines.”

Denny said parents must emphasize to children that the lawn mower is not a toy, and they recommend parents do not take children on rides on their mowers.

“The mower is for mowing, and kids should not be riding around on them,” Denny said. “It’s implying that the mower is a toy. Your child is getting the wrong impression of what that tool is there for. The other thing is, and I’ve seen this firsthand, kids can fall off the mower and then be run over by that mower, and that can be really serious and even deadly. This is one of those things that no one thinks it’s going to happen to them until it does.”

And the effects can be physically and emotionally devastating.

“The parents’ guilt is heartbreaking. It’s so sad,” Denny said. “Of course they weren’t intending for their child to get hurt. They just didn’t really think about that as a possibility. Keep everyone safe, keep kids out of the yard when you’re mowing, keep kids off the mower. It’s a serious tool, so teaching kids to approach it with respect and a safety-conscious attitude is appropriate.”